‘Children killing children’: Two detained over Burkina Faso village massacre

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Two suspected jihadists including a local commander have been detained after a massacre in the village of Solhan in northeast Burkina Faso earlier this month, the public prosecutor said Tuesday. The attack, which claimed at least 132 lives, was mostly conducted by children, said the US ambassador to the UN.

The two suspects, Mano Tidjani and Woba Dikouré, both 28, were arrested last Friday, public prosecutor Emile Zerbo said in a statement released Tuesday.

They are being investigated for "criminal association, murder, attempted murder, theft, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and criminal damage, all acts of which were connected to terrorism", the statement said.

The attack on the village of Solhan on the night of June 4 was the bloodiest in Burkina Faso's six-year struggle with jihadist insurgents who in 2015 began to sweep into the impoverished Sahel state from neighbouring Mali.

Most of the attackers were children, US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a UN meeting on children and armed conflict on Monday.

"Earlier this month, in the village of Solhan in the Sahel region, a non-state armed group killed more than 130 civilians – many of whom were children. That armed group? Mostly 12- to 14-year-olds. Children killing children – children killing children," Thomas-Greenfield repeated.

Attack aimed at 'looting property'

Armed attacks by Islamist militants and other groups are rampant across vast swathes of the Sahel, including Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger despite the presence of UN peacekeepers and thousands of other international troops in the region.

The investigation into the Solhan massacre showed the attack was aimed at "looting property, looting being the main source of funding for the group to which the two defendants belong", according to the prosecutor.

He said that the two suspects were members of the al Qaeda-affiliated Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the biggest jihadist alliance in the Sahel.

Tidjani (alias "Ali") is the head of a "terrorist base" in a forest in the Boundore region on the eastern border with Niger, the statement said, adding that Dikouré is a "simple fighter".

Their group was responsible for previous attacks along the border with Niger and has made incursions into Niger as well as Benin, it said.

The investigation also blamed this group for a November 2019 attack on a mining convoy that left at least 37 people dead.

Around 1,500 people have been killed and almost 1.5 million forced to flee their homes by a rising wave of violence by jihadist groups in the former French colony.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)