Islamic extremist groups in Burkina Faso killed at least 250 civilians since last April, according to a new report released by a human rights watchdog group that also sheds more details surrounding attacks against churches and worshiping Christians.
On Monday, the nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch released a new report highlighting the escalation of extremism in the West African country in which one of the “fastest-growing displacement crises” on the continent is developing as hundreds of thousands fled for their lives last year.
The report is based on interviews with dozens of victims and witnesses of abuses that took place between April and December of last year. The report documents at least 256 civilians murdered in 20 attacks since April 2019.
The al-Qaeda-aligned groups responsible for such attacks, HRW reports, formed in neighboring Mali and have since spread to Burkina Faso. Those groups include Ansaroul Islam and the Islamic State in Greater Sahara.
The report detailed one attack on a Catholic Church that took place on May 12 in the town of Dablo located in the Centre-Nord region. Six people were said to have been killed, including the parish priest, Father Simeon Yampa.
One witness told HRW that the attack began about 15 minutes after the beginning of the 8:30 a.m. Sunday service.
“[W]e heard the motorcycles … then saw them through the windows,” the witness said. “The church was so full that dozens of worshipers had to celebrate outside. One group of jihadists surrounded those outside then another entered the church, creating panic.”
Witnesses said the jihadis blocked the doors so no one could escape.
“Father Yampa fled outside through his dressing chamber,” another witness was quoted as saying. “He ran about three meters, but a jihadist pointed his gun at him saying, ‘You will not escape.’ The priest turned around, raised his hands, clutching the Bible, and sunk to his knees. And the jihadist shot him in the chest, saying, ‘Allahu Akbar.’”