In early November, a tragic massacre in the village of Zaongo in north-central Burkina Faso resulted in the deaths of at least 70 individuals, predominantly children and elderly people. The incident has left the perpetrators unidentified, prompting calls from the European Union and the United States for a thorough investigation.
The Faso public prosecutor, Simon Gnanou, released a preliminary report on Monday, revealing that the attack on November 5 resulted in the loss of 70 lives, primarily children and elderly individuals. Gnanou highlighted that the culprits behind these heinous acts remain unknown at present.
The European Union addressed the massacre, expressing concerns over a potential death toll of around one hundred and urged the authorities in Ouagadougou to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into the tragic event. Similarly, the US State Department’s Head of African Affairs, Molly Phee, strongly denounced the attack and emphasized the necessity for an investigation.
As the investigation unfolds, the prosecutor indicated that interviewing the victims’ relatives and the injured would assist in determining the accurate number of fatalities. Additionally, a security source confirmed that an investigation has been launched into the massacre.
According to a local resident who preferred anonymity, the village of Zaongo was one of the few areas in the vicinity that hadn’t been abandoned by its residents, following previous confrontations between security forces and terrorists. Some suspected the locals of collaborating with the terrorists, leading to the tragic incident.
Burkina Faso has been grappling with escalating violence attributed to jihadist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State since 2015. This spate of violence has claimed the lives of over 17,000 civilians and soldiers, resulting in the abandonment of many affected areas and displacing more than two million people internally.
The prosecutor detailed the on-site investigation conducted on November 11, involving a team including a military examining magistrate, members of the Special Anti-Terrorist Investigation and Organised Crime Brigade, and gendarmes. The prosecutor also commended the defence and security forces for their efforts in clearing mines along the route in the region, a known operating area for jihadist groups.
Another massacre in Karma, northern Burkina Faso, occurred in April, resulting in the deaths of 136 people. This attack, perpetrated by men in military attire, prompted an investigation at the time. Captain Ibrahim Traoré, the President of the transition, emphasized the need to avoid hasty conclusions and refrain from immediately attributing responsibility to the army following the massacre.
Despite the launch of investigations, no official communication has been released regarding the findings of the probe into the Karma massacre. Captain Traoré, who assumed power in a coup in September 2022, has asserted his commitment to combatting jihadists, having implemented a one-year “general mobilization” decree to engage individuals aged 18 and above in the fight against extremism.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that several individuals were “called by the security forces” and “requisitioned to take part in government security operations” amidst these efforts.