Burkina Faso prosecutor launches probe after 12 ‘terrorism’ suspects die in detention

A prosecutor from Burkina Faso opened an investigation after the death of 12 people in the same night in detention cells, a few hours after their arrest for alleged crimes related to terrorism in a city in the east of the country.

The case comes weeks after human rights group Human Rights Watch said it believed that Burkina Faso security forces had summarily executed 31 unarmed detainees in operations against Islamist activists.

Prosecutor Judicael Kadeba said in a statement on Wednesday that the incident took place in the town of Fada N’Gourma, about 220 km (137 miles) east of the capital Ouagadougou.

He said 25 people were arrested during the night of May 11 to 12 by the security and defense forces of Burkina Faso for alleged terrorism in a village in the Fada N’Gourma region.

“Unfortunately, 12 of them died during the same night in cells where they were detained,” said Kadeba.

Burkina Faso has been fighting armed Islamist insurgents, some with ties to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, since 2017.

Activists have strengthened their presence in the northeast and east parts of the country around the region of the three borders with Niger and Mali, known as the Liptako-Gourma region.

HRW said in April that militants had killed more than 300 civilians in Burkina Faso, while the government had killed several hundred men for their alleged support for the groups.

Burkinabé officials have promised to investigate similar allegations in the past, but a human rights group says the government has not done enough to hold the perpetrators accountable.