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Burkina Bloodbath in Northwest

FILE : Burkina Faso's military leader Ibrahim Traore is escorted by soldiers in Ouagadougou. Taken October 2, 2022
FILE : Burkina Faso's military leader Ibrahim Traore is escorted by soldiers in Ouagadougou. Taken October 2, 2022

The bodies of 28 men killed by gunfire have been found in the northwestern Burkina Faso town of Nouna, prosecutors said on Monday.

On Monday, the Burkinabe civil society organization Collective of Communities against Impunity and Stigmatization [CISC] blamed the Nouna attacks on armed civilians masquerading as members of the Homeland Defense Volunteers (VDP), a group that receives funds and training from the government to help fight the insurgents.

The CISC said the weekend events in Nouna had begun with a reported "terrorist attack" on a local VDP headquarters.

Armed men then carried out "deadly attacks in reprisal," it said. Victims said the assailants were VDP who were members of a traditional hunting community called the Dozo, according to the CISC.

CISC Secretary Daouda Diallo called on the authorities to pay "special attention" to the situation.

"Armed terrorist groups exploit these kinds of transgression to attract recruits among the public," Diallo warned.

Reuters could not independently verify this report.

An investigation has been launched into the killings which were discovered on Dec. 30 and 31, prosecutors said in a statement that did not provide any details on the possible perpetrators or motive for the attacks.

Three incidents of abduction and extrajudicial killings allegedly involving Dozo or VDP had occurred in the runup to the events at the weekend, CISC said.

The VDP has been in the brunt of losses suffered by the security forces in the face of the jihadist campaign.

Hundreds of volunteers have died, especially in ambushes or explosions caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted along roadsides.

The escalating toll among the army, police and VDP unleashed two military coups last year, launched by officers angered at failures to stem the bloodshed.

The latest strongman is Captain Ibrahim Traore, who on September 30 ousted Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba.

Damiba had seized the helm in January 2022 from the last elected president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore.

The West African country is battling a violent jihadist insurgency that has spread from neighboring Mali over the past decade. Thousands have been killed across the region, and millions forced to flee their homes.

This report was compiled with data from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.