A number of Christians have been killed in a spate of jihadist attacks in the West African nation of Burkina Faso. Some 58 people are dead — including several children — after Islamist militants struck several groups on the 29th and 30th May.
According to international Christian relief organisation, the Barnabas Fund, on 29th May, a convoy of traders was set upon while travelling from Titao to Sollé, in Loroum province. Fifteen were shot dead. Then, the next day, armed militants opened fire at random on those attending a cattle market in Kompienga province, murdering at least 30 people and injuring many others. On the same day, a humanitarian convoy was attacked by extremists in Barsalogho, Sanmatenga province, resulting in the deaths of six civilians and seven soldiers.
According to sources on the group, militants were thought to be targeting Christians and humanitarians transporting food to an internally displaced people (IDP) camp.
One survivor recounted travelling in an ambulance in the convoy when it was attacked: “The driver shouted ‘forgive, forgive, we are also followers of the prophet Muhammad’. One of them [the gunmen] turned to his fellows saying ‘they have the same religion with us’.”
Once lauded as model nation in the region, championing of peace and democratic values, Burkina Faso has become a hotbed of anti-Christian violence in recent years, with innumerable attacks perpetrated against the faith community at the hands of Islamic insurgents. In 2016, there were 12 jihadist attacks, in 2017 there were 33 and in 2018 it ramped up to a staggering 158.
At the start of this year, Human Rights Watch released a report on the situation, noting that the attackers are seeking "to justify killings by linking victims to the government, the West, or Christian belief." As part of its work on the ground, the group documented 256 killings of civilians in 20 attacks since April 2019 by groups allied with Al-Qaeda, including the local armed group Ansaroul Islam, and the Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS).
Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Armed Islamist groups in Burkina Faso have attacked civilians with unmitigated cruelty and utter disregard for human life.
"Deliberately targeting farmers, worshippers, mine workers, displaced people and traders are war crimes.
“The Islamist armed groups need to immediately end their attacks on civilians.
“At the same time, the Burkina Faso government should take stronger steps to protect vulnerable communities from harm and impartially investigate and appropriately prosecute those implicated in war crimes.”