The incident occurred on Thursday when armed men in uniform encircled Karma village, located in northern Yatenga province, and randomly shot at people. At least 150 civilians were killed, and many more wounded, according to reports.
The attackers – allegedly members of the defence and security forces, accompanied by paramilitary auxiliaries known as the Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland (VDP) – then proceeded to loot homes, shops and mosques.
Shots heard that morning
OHCHR Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said sources in the nearby town of Ouahigouya reported hearing gunshots at 7am on Thursday, three hours after they had seen men in military fatigues on vehicles and motorcycles headed towards Karma.
“The public prosecutor in Ouahigouya announced on 23 April that 60 people were killed and an investigation into the attack was under way,” she said. “This investigation must be prompt, thorough, independent, and impartial and must result in credible prosecutions, if such gross violations are to end.”
Burkina Faso has been experiencing unrest in recent years, with attacks reportedly carried out by suspected jihadists. Armed group activity, and military operations, have sparked widespread displacement, uprooting some two million people.
Respect rights obligations
The latest bloodshed comes in the wake of an attack on a VDP base on 15 April. Eight soldiers and 32 VDPs were killed, and more than 30 injured, according to the provincial governor.
OHCHR said credible accounts indicate the attackers accused villagers of sheltering members of Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslim (JNIM), an Islamic State group affiliate, and other non-state armed groups.
“We call on all parties to the conflict in Burkina Faso to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, including by refraining from targeting civilians and civilian objects. Deliberately targeting civilians or individuals not taking direct part in hostilities constitutes a war crime,” Ms. Shamdasani said.
Wave of attacks
She added that this was one of several other reported attacks on civilians by the armed forces and VDPs in recent months.
At least 50 civilians were killed on 9 November when suspected members of the 14th regiment attacked four villages near Djibo town, capital of Soum province. In another incident, at least 28 people were killed in Nouna town, Kossi Province, on 30-31 December.
“Investigations were announced by the authorities,” Ms. Shamdasani said. “We call on the authorities to publish the findings of these investigations.”