The United States on Wednesday called on Burkina Faso’s government to investigate reports that 180 men were extrajudicially executed by the army, threatening to withdraw security aid if it did not act swiftly.
“US security assistance cannot continue without action,” tweeted Tibor Nagy, the top US diplomat for Africa, calling a Human Rights Watch report into the killings “very troubling”.
Over the last three years, security forces in the West African country have been repeatedly accused of extrajudicial killings in their battles against jihadist groups and inter-community conflicts.
Human Rights Watch said Wednesday that the bodies of at least 180 men, mostly from the ethnic Fulani group, were buried in mass graves by residents of the northern town of Djibo between April and May.
Many were blindfolded, had their hands tied behind the back and were shot in the head, the international watchdog’s report said.
“Available evidence suggests the involvement of government security forces in extrajudicial mass killings,” it added.
HRW’s Sahel director Corinne Dufka said: “the Burkina Faso authorities need to urgently uncover who turned Djibo into a ‘killing field’.”
Nagy, the US assistant secretary of state for Africa, said that “Burkinabe authorities must do more to prevent these abuses and hold perpetrators accountable”.
J. Peter Pham, the US envoy to Africa’s Sahel region, tweeted that “without rapid and thorough action, these abuses put the partnership with the US in danger.”
The US embassy in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou said Washington was “deeply concerned by the continued and growing number of allegations of abuse and extrajudicial killings carried about by Burkinabe security forces.”
“We strongly urge the government to immediately launch an independent, timely, and fully resourced investigation into these new allegations,” the embassy said it a statement.
Burkina Faso’s government said it would open an inquiry in response to the allegations.
Officials said these executions may have been committed by armed groups who used the uniforms and munitions of the army when they attack, according to HRW.
Since a jihadist insurgency crossed the border from Mali in 2015, inflaming inter-community tensions on the way, the ensuing conflict has killed more than 1,100 people and forced more than a million to flee their homes.