July 10, 2020 / 11:40 AM / a month ago

Burkina Faso queries Human Rights Watch report on army killings

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Burkina Faso’s government on Friday questioned the conclusions of a Human Rights Watch report which said that the West African country’s armed forces may have carried out mass executions.

Wednesday’s HRW report said government forces were likely to have been behind killings between November 2019 and June 2020 around Djibo, a town in the north of Burkina Faso, where at least 180 bodies were found in common graves.

“The (HRW) allegations are a questionable reading of efforts made by defence and security forces,” the government said in statement that stressed its commitment to human rights.

Increased reports of abuses by soldiers in the Sahel has prompted warnings from the United States, European Union and Sahel leaders. On Thursday, the U.S. State Department said abuses by state security forces must be addressed or its assistance could be at risk.

Burkina Faso has been battling militant groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State since 2017. Hundreds of civilians have been killed and almost a million displaced by the conflict, which is also affecting neighbours Niger and Mali.

The government said militants were seeking to sow confusion by staging attacks with stolen army uniforms and equipment, which meant civilians have often been unable to tell the difference between Burkinabe troops and jihadists.

Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Alexander Smith

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