International watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday accused the Burkina Faso army of killing at least 60 civilians in drone strikes which the government said targeted armed groups.

The deaths occurred in three military drone strikes since August, two at crowded markets and another at a funeral, the rights group said in a new report.

Since becoming head of state after a 2022 coup, Captain Ibrahim Traore has focused on a strong security response in reclaiming swathes of territory controlled by armed groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and the ISIS (ISIL) group.

But those efforts have often been criticised as heavy-handed, with the HRW report being the latest instance of that criticism.

HRW said it interviewed dozens of witnesses between September and November 2023 and analysed photographs, videos and satellite images.

“The Burkina Faso military used one of the most accurate weapons in its arsenal to attack large groups of people, causing the loss of numerous civilian lives in violation of the laws of war,” the New York-based group said in its report.

The drone strikes “violated laws-of-war prohibitions against attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and military targets and were apparent war crimes,” it added.

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