Nigerian authorities have vowed to provide justice after armed men in Burkina Faso attacked a group of Nigerian pilgrims on their way to Senegal, killing at least 16. Burkina Faso’s military government launched an investigation of Monday’s attack in an area known for Islamist militants.
The Nigerian presidency said in a statement that authorities are in talks with Burkinabe counterparts and are waiting for the outcome of their probe before they take action.
President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the killing and expressed condolences to the families of the victims. Authorities also pledged to secure the remains of the deceased.
Nigerian pilgrims were in convoy of buses bound for Kaolak, Senegal, when they were stopped by heavily armed men in military uniforms. The men forced the passengers out of the buses, selected 16 pilgrims at random and shot them to death.
Burkina Faso authorities refute allegations the killers are members of their security forces.
Abuja-based Beacon Security analyst Kabiru Adamu said it might be too early to point a finger.
“Around 2019 up until now, the intensity of terror attacks in that country has increased tremendously,” Adamu said. “Seeing persons in military uniforms may not be enough to conclude that they’re state officials. Just like it happened in Nigeria, no-state actors sometimes dress in public security uniforms and come out to carry out their atrocity.”
Burkina Faso and its neighbors, Mali and Niger, have been battling armed groups with links to al-Qaida and Islamic State.
The fighting is mainly in the country’s northern region, where hundreds of villagers have been killed and nearly 2 million displaced.
Last week, at least 10 civilians were killed in two attacks in the west central town of Dassa.
Security analyst Senator Iruegbu said Nigerian authorities and citizens must take travel advisories seriously.
“This also boils down to issues of negligence on the part of the government and ignorance on the part of the citizens,” Iruegbu said. “What kind of travel advisory has the federal government given to citizens that want to embark on such journeys? We know that the Sahel Region, all these countries have been embroiled in conflict.”
It’s not clear when Burkina Faso authorities will present the probe’s outcome. But Adamu suggests the Nigerian government could employ multilateral relations to address the problem.
“We can invite the ambassador of Burkina Faso to Nigeria and request formally for an investigation,” Iroegbu said. “The other option is multilateral. Since we’re members of several multilateral platforms, Nigeria can also use that — ECOWAS, the EU and the UN. It’s absolutely important that these multilateral platforms are pursued for the simple reason that the issue probably has to do with terrorism because that’s the major issue with Burkina Faso.”
Burkina Faso also faces growing political instability from two coups in the last year alone.
On Tuesday, the United Nations said poverty and the prospect of better-paid work, rather than ideology, are fueling recruitment to jihadist and other violent groups in Africa, casting doubt on assertions that religious doctrine is the main reason for continued trouble.