Burkina Faso Accounted for One in Four Terrorism Deaths in 2023

(Bloomberg) -- Burkina Faso, which has been ruled by a military junta led by Captain Ibrahim Traore for the past 18 months, accounted for almost a quarter of people killed in terrorist attacks globally last year.

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Fatalities rose to 1,907 in 2023, from 1,135 a year earlier, despite a decline in the number of attacks, according to the Sydney-based Institute for Economics & Peace’s Global Terrorism Index. Deaths from terrorism in the country have increased successively each year since 2014, when none were recorded, it said in a report published March 1.

The West African nation has been battling a decade-long Islamist insurgency in the Sahel, a semi-arid northern Africa region that’s faced a spate of military coups over the past three years, including two in Burkina Faso in 2022. Its military rulers last year agreed with juntas in neighboring Mali and Niger to form an alliance of nations that will support each other in the fight against militants.

Deaths from terrorist attacks fell to 753 in Mali from 806 the year before, while in Niger they more than doubled to 468 from 193, according to the institute.

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Civilians were the most targeted group in Burkina Faso for the fifth consecutive year, accounting for 1,132 of the deaths, according to the institute. Al Qaeda’s West Africa affiliate — Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin — continues to be the main perpetrator of the attacks, it said.

Earlier this month, a Burkina Faso prosecutor launched an investigation into the killings of about 170 people by unidentified assailants in three villages in the country’s far north. The attacks left several others wounded and caused material damage, Aly Benjamin Coulibaly, the prosecutor for the northern town of Ouahigouya, said in a March 1 statement, without attributing the attack to any specific group.

In a January report, Human Rights Watch accused the Burkinabe army of atrocities and the killing of at least 60 civilians since August, some of whom died in drone strikes. The army said it had targeted armed groups.

Islamist insurgents, security forces and pro-government militias “are all responsible for serious abuses, further degrading Burkina Faso’s human rights and humanitarian situation,” Human Right Watch said. In a crackdown on dissent, the junta is increasingly abducting civil society activists and political opponents, it said.

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