Twenty-eight bodies have been found in northwest Burkina Faso over the weekend, the government said, noting an investigation was under way as speculation grows over who may be responsible.
“The government was informed of an incident at Nouna … during the night of December 30-31,” a government statement said late on Monday. It added that an investigation had been begun into the matter.
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The CISC (Collective against Impunity and Stigmatisation of Communities) organisation denounced the violence as “reprisals targeting civilians” by armed civilians claiming to be members of an auxiliary force who “freely engage in organised looting and targeted abuses of [the] civilian population”.
Attacks targeting security forces and civilians have increased in recent months, especially in northern and eastern regions bordering Mali and Niger, which are battling armed groups.
Despite large gold deposits, Burkina Faso – which has 21 million inhabitants – is one of the poorest countries in the world.
Since 2015, the West African country has become the epicentre of a violent rebellion that has spread from neighbouring Mali over the past decade. Thousands have been killed across the Sahel region with nearly two million people being displaced and forced to live in makeshift camps.
The government’s inability to stem the attacks led to two coups this year with each military leader promising to make security a priority.
However, swaths of its territory are being cut off by armed groups in repeated attacks. The east and Sahel regions have been some of the hardest hit parts of the country, with towns besieged by rebels who prevent civilians from moving freely.