UGADUGU, Burkina Faso – Atrocities spread: A 25-year-old woman was abducted at night from her home, pinned and raped by a jihadist, and another held her child. Child soldiers are looting villages and killing women to identify their attackers, leaving their bodies on the streets.
As violence intensifies in war-torn countries, jihadists are raping and killing civilians and increasingly using child soldiers, international rights groups say.
Civilians are also threatened by extrajudicial killings and disappearances by government security forces and government-linked militias in counter-terrorism operations, the report said.
“The pace of the attacks in Burkina Faso and the resulting degradation are as dramatic as they are alarming. Corinne Dufka, West Africa director for Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press that violence has infiltrated more parts of the country and threatened neighboring states, disrupting people’s lives.
Based on interviews with 83 survivors, witnesses and others between September and April, the report records dozens of rapes, hundreds of killings and village destruction, including looting health centers and destroying water and telecommunications infrastructure by extremists across the country.
For six years Burkina Faso has struggled to contain the growing jihadist insurgency that has killed thousands and displaced nearly 2 million people. In January, the democratically elected president was ousted by rebel forces who vowed to make security a top priority. However, extremist attacks are intensifying and spreading.
Most of the recent violence has been centered in the north, where jihadists have driven people out of their homes. Dozens of women there told Human Rights Watch that they were brutally raped while collecting firewood, on their way to the market or while fleeing an attack on their village.
A 37-year-old woman described that she had been beaten 25 times before being raped and called a fake Muslim.
Many women need psychological help but have not received any help from the international aid group, the head of a local women’s group who spoke on condition of anonymity for her safety.
Children between the ages of 13 and 15 are increasingly being forced to become fighters, with jihadists burning villages, guarding prisoners, and looting civilians, especially cattle.
Last year, the AP documented the first visible use of child soldiers in clashes during a deadly attack in the village of Solhan in Sahel province, in which at least 160 people were killed.
There are also allegations of misuse of government security forces to prevent violence. Human Rights Watch has documented 42 brief executions and the forcible disappearance of 14 civilians and suspected jihadist fighters by state security forces. The majority of those killed were ethnic Fulani, who are generally Muslims and have increasingly been targeted by military and local defense militias because they are suspected of belonging to Islamist groups, rights groups say.
According to the report, some allegations have been made in the context of large-scale counter-terrorism operations. In January, 22 people were killed and six were abducted during a government-led air and ground operation in the village of Yattakou in Sahel’s Seno province, village head Abdul Qadri Usman told the AP. The AP cannot independently verify the allegations.
The government did not respond to a request for comment. However, in a statement issued in April in response to allegations that security forces had killed more than 100 civilians in Sahel’s Odalan province, the military said it was conducting and investigating all missions with “high awareness of human rights”. The incident.
However, the UN says allegations of abuse during security operations are a matter of concern, said Safe Magango, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Africa.
Residents were caught in the middle as violence escalated on both sides. In June, Azra Dogan’s 16-year-old son was killed by jihadists while searching for water in his village north. He was buried near his home before fleeing to a makeshift shelter in the city of Oahigua. Now the 10-year-old mother wants to return home but says the situation is very unexpected.
“You hear the jihadists are in the north, south or other parts and you are told not to go anywhere,” Dugan said. “It’s getting harder … nobody knows what’s going on.”