Burkina Faso: Children Ages 12-14 Responsible for Massacre of over 130 People
Child soldiers “between the ages of 12 and 14” perpetrated a massacre in Burkina Faso this month that killed over 130 people, Burkina Faso’s government said on Thursday.
“The attackers were mostly children between the ages of 12 and 14,” Ousseni Tamboura, a Burkina Faso government spokesman, told reporters in the nation’s capital, Ouagadougou, on June 24.
Tamboura referred to a massacre of residents in the northeastern village of Solhan on June 4. The incident marked Burkina Faso’s deadliest Islamist terror attack since 2015.
“On the night of June 4-5, scores of jihadists linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group swarmed the village of Solhan, located near the border of Mali and Niger, and staged a ruthless attack on civilians, including women and children,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on June 14.
“I saw them arrive on their motorcycles. There were over a hundred – so many I couldn’t count them. They killed a baby who wasn’t even crawling yet and left its mother alive,” a survivor of the attack identified only as Amadou told AFP.
The West African Sahel region — which includes parts of northern Burkina Faso and neighboring sections of Mali and Niger — has battled an Islamist insurgency since 2015 that has significantly worsened since 2018.
Jihadist groups linked to the Islamist terror groups al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) regularly target civilians and government soldiers as part of the insurgency, which has killed hundreds of people and displaced more than 1.2 million more, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The conflict has forced more than 2,200 schools to close in Burkina Faso in recent years, or “about one in ten” according to the UN, which says the closures have affected “over 300,000 children.”
“In 2020 alone, an estimated 3,270 children were recruited into armed groups in central and West Africa, the United Nations found. That accounts for more than a third of the world’s documented child soldiers,” the Washington Post reported on June 24.
“Children as young as 7 are kidnapped to become soldiers [in Burkina Faso],” a Burkinabe military officer allegedly told the Washington Post this week, speaking “on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.”
“We’ve been seeing them more and more,” he said. “They start fighting around the age of 12.”
A Reuters report on June 25 seemed to support the Washington Post‘s alleged account concerning child soldier recruitment in Burkina Faso.
“Local officials in Burkina Faso’s north, where jihadists control large areas, said child soldiers have been used by Islamist groups over the past year, but this month’s attack was by far the highest profile case [sic],” the news agency noted.