Burkina Faso forces, militants execute dozens of civilians: HRW

Thousands of people have fled their homes as a result of militant attacks and reprisals by Burkinabe forces. (File/AFP)
Updated 22 March 2019

Burkina Faso forces, militants execute dozens of civilians: HRW

  • Burkina Faso has seen a sharp rise in extremist attacks in the past three months
  • All the violence occurred near the northern borders with Mali and Niger, between April 2018 and January 2019

OUAGADOUGOU: Burkina Faso security forces have summarily executed more than 115 civilians since mid-last year during operations against militants who themselves have killed over a third of that number, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.
Burkina Faso has seen a sharp rise in extremist attacks in the past three months, as militant groups seek to increase their influence across the Sahel.
A Burkinabe government spokesman declined to comment, but said authorities would issue a statement shortly. None of the multiple militant groups operating in Burkina Faso could be reached for comment.
HRW documented “the execution by Burkinabe security forces of over 115 men accused of supporting or harboring the armed Islamists,” as well as 42 killings carried out by militants of suspected government collaborators.
All the violence occurred near the northern borders with Mali and Niger, between April 2018 and January 2019.
“Scores of people have been murdered,” Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at Human Rights Watch, said. “Villagers are living in fear as both armed Islamists and government forces have demonstrated utter disregard for human life.”
Burkina Faso has become the latest focal point for a determined regional militant campaign, seven years after well-armed extremists took over northern Mali in 2012, prompting the French to intervene the following year to push them back.
However, any evidence of reprisals would present an uncomfortable dilemma for Western allies such as France and the United States: backing security forces in countries such as Burkina Faso is key to containing the militant threat, but that support is meant to be conditional on respect for human rights.
Burkina declared a state of emergency in several provinces in December following an attack by an Al-Qaeda-linked group. The state of emergency was extended by six months in January after an dozens died in ethnic violence triggered by the suspected militant killing of a traditional ruler.
Thousands of people have fled their homes as a result of militant attacks and reprisals by Burkinabe forces.
According to the HRW report, in the village of Gasseliki, about 230 km north of the capital Ouagadougou, militants killed 12 people.
“They kicked the door in, went room to room and found us hiding,” the report quoted a witness as saying. Reprisals by security forces were mostly carried out by a detachment of about 100 gendarmes, or military police, based in the town of Arbinda, since late August, it said.
Most were from the Fulani ethnic group, whom the militants have targeted heavily for recruitment.
Earlier this month, Burkina Faso acknowledged accusations of abuse, saying the army was committed to human rights and that it “investigations are ongoing into the facts.”


Airlines halt China flights as coronavirus toll hits 132

Updated 29 January 2020

Airlines halt China flights as coronavirus toll hits 132

  • A growing number of governments have in recent days advised their citizens to avoid non-essential travel to China
  • British Airways was the first major airline to announce a total suspension of flights to and from China

WUHAN, China: Foreign airlines began suspending flights to and from China on Wednesday as global fears mounted over a coronavirus epidemic that has killed 132 people and infected nearly 6,000.
The announcements came hours after countries began airlifts to evacuate foreigners trapped in Wuhan, the quarantined central Chinese city of 11 million people at the epicenter of the health emergency.
A growing number of governments, including the United States, Britain and Germany, have in recent days advised their citizens to avoid non-essential travel to China over concerns about the viral outbreak.
China itself on Tuesday urged its citizens to delay trips abroad to avoid spreading the limit further global contagion, with at least 15 countries having confirmed cases of the disease.
The United Arab Emirates reported the first known case in the Middle East on Wednesday.
British Airways was the first major airline to announce a total suspension of flights to and from China, citing the travel advice of the foreign office.
“We apologize to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority,” BA said in a statement on Wednesday.
Indonesia’s Lion Air Group, Southeast Asia’s biggest carrier by fleet size, then said it would halt services to and from China from Saturday “until further notice.”
In Myanmar, the three airlines that have routes into neighboring China also said those flights would also be suspended from Saturday.
Cathay Pacific also cut flights, citing low demand and the Hong Kong government’s response plan against the virus.
And in one of the most dramatic measures, the tiny Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea announced Wednesday that travelers from Asia would not be allowed in.
However, many other airlines said they were continuing their China services.
China has taken other extraordinary measures to try and stop the disease spreading, including bans on tour groups traveling overseas, suspending schools and extending the Lunar New Year holiday.
Authorities also last week imposed transport bans in and around Wuhan in an unprecedented quarantine effort, leaving more than 50 million people shuttered in their homes.
“This is the first day since the lockdown that I’ve had to go out,” a man in his 50s said on the mostly deserted streets of the industrial city on Wednesday.
“I have no choice because I need to buy food today.”
Thousands of foreigners have been among those trapped in Wuhan, which has become a near ghost-town with car travel banned and residents staying indoors.
Countries have scrambled for days to try and get their citizens out of Wuhan safely, but have faced huge logistical, medical and bureaucratic hurdles.
A US charter flight left Wuhan on Wednesday with about 200 Americans on board, including consulate staff.
Another 200 people were aboard a Japanese flight which landed in Tokyo on Wednesday morning.
Medical professionals were on the plane to carry out checks but officials said they had no legal basis to forcibly quarantine people who have not tested positive for the virus.
They would instead be asked to remain at home and avoid crowds until the results of the tests were known.
Other countries were planning more stringent quarantine measures, with Australia to evacuate its citizens from Wuhan and temporarily house them on an island normally used to detain asylum seekers.
France said it would keep its returnees in a holding facility in Paris for 14 days — the estimated incubation period for the virus.
Meanwhile, the virus continued to spread and kill in China.
The number of confirmed cases across the country climbed to 5,974, while the death toll nationwide jumped 26 to 132.
The scale of the deepening crisis was emphasized with the total number of infections on the Chinese mainland exceeding that of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-03.
SARS, another respiratory coronavirus, went on to claim nearly 800 lives around the world, with most of those fatalities in mainland China and Hong Kong.
The virus is believed to have originated in a wild-animal market in Wuhan, where it jumped to humans before spreading across the country as the peak travel period for Lunar New Year festivities got under way.
The World Health Organization said Tuesday it would send urgently dispatch international experts to China “to guide global response efforts.”
Until Tuesday, all reported cases overseas had involved people who had been in or around Wuhan.
But Japan and Germany then reported the first confirmed human-to-human transmission of the illness outside China. Vietnam is investigating another case.
Germany now has four confirmed cases, all of them employees at a Bavarian firm recently visited by a Chinese colleague, health officials said.
The US asked China on Tuesday to step up its cooperation with international health authorities over the epidemic.
Washington had offered China assistance three times so far without success, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters.
The virus has rattled global markets and started to dent an already-slowing Chinese economy.
Japanese automaker Toyota said Wednesday it would keep its plants in China closed until at least February 9 in part due to government guidelines.
Apple was closely watching the outbreak in China, home to the firm’s third-biggest consumer market and much of its supply chain, chief executive Tim Cook said.
Global coffee chain Starbucks said it expected a significant earnings hit after closing more than half of its stores across China.