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Following the discovery of seven corpses with multiple bullet shots in Burkina Faso, the country’s Defence Ministry announced that it launched an investigation to uncover the perpetrators. This was announced on Wednesday, July 2, 2020.

The corpses were found on June 29, 2020, in Boumoana – a town on the outskirts of the eastern region of the country where the army had carried out an offensive against jihadist militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS). For years, soldiers from Burkina Faso and neighbouring Sahel nations have been battling these militants who have carried out attacks and caused conflicts among communities.

“Following a military operation carried out on June 29 in the locality of Boumoana, near Tanwalbougou, seven bodies of individuals who were shot dead were reportedly discovered by the residents in the outskirts of the town,” a statement from the ministry read. It also assured the public that those responsible would be punished.

According to a report by the Human Rights Watch, there has been a significant rise in brutality by armed Islamist groups active in Burkina Faso and by the Burkinabè security forces in the course of counterterrorism missions since mid-2018. 

Insurgency spiked in the region as a result of the emergence of a homegrown militant group, Ansaroul Islam in 2016. The militants consist of many natives of the communities, making it difficult to identify them.

The Ansaroul Islam group is linked to both Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). They have attacked army bases, police, and gendarme posts. They have also attacked civilian targets, even in Ouagadougou the country’s capital, leaving several hundred dead, including security force members and civilians.

Since Ansaroul Islam began operations, all major ethnic groups present in the Sahel region of northern Burkina Faso have been subjected to intimidation as they persistently warned them not to divulge their whereabouts to the authorities. 

However, the report also shows that in an attempt to curb the growing presence of armed Islamists, the Burkinabè security forces allegedly executed at least 116 unarmed men accused of supporting or harbouring terrorists on 19 different occasions. Another report indicates that around 200 people (including IDPs) were unlawfully killed or forcibly disappeared by security forces between February and March 2020. 

The Rights Group has warned that abuses are rampant in the region as national armies dispense duty.

In May, a prosecutor launched an investigation following the death of 12 people died in detention cells in Boumoana, hours after arrest on the grounds of terrorism. 

Nonetheless, the European Union and the Sahel states leaders have warned that any troop member found guilty of human rights abuses against civilians would be severely punished. While the Defence Ministry continues to make ensure that all personnel are accountable, there would be a reduction in human rights abuse in the affected regions because soldiers would become more conscious when discharging duties.

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