Two Spanish journalists and Irish citizen killed by jihadists in Burkina Faso

Two Spanish journalists and an Irish national have been killed after they were ambushed by jihadists, while on an anti-poaching mission in Burkina Faso, the Spanish government has said.

On Tuesday, Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, said 44-year-old David Beriáin, a reporter, and 47-year-old Roberto Fraile, a photographer, were believed to have been murdered on Monday, after they were identified from an image provided by Burkinabe authorities.

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said on Tuesday afternoon: “We have confirmation of the worst possible news. All our love to the family and loved ones of David Beriáin and Roberto Fraile, who were murdered in Burkina Faso. And also our recognition of those who, like them, practise brave and essential journalism on a daily basis in conflict zones.”

González Laya said contact had been lost with a group of about 40 people in the vast Pama national park in eastern Burkina Faso, near the border with Benin on Monday.

“There were two Spaniards in the group – two journalists – and an Irish citizen. This is a dangerous area because terrorists, poachers, robbers and jihadist groups habitually operate there,” she said.

Both journalists had been working on a documentary on Burkina Faso’s attempts to protect its natural resources from poachers and on communities who live in the country’s national parks.

“The information on what happened at the time is confusing,” she said with authorities still working to establish the full extent of the attack.

No group has claimed responsibility yet. Insurgents linked to the Islamic State terror group and al-Qaida have led a campaign of violence across west Africa’s Sahel region and devastated ordinary life in Burkina Faso, where a million people are displaced.

On Monday, the Irish foreign ministry said it was investigating and “aware of the reports and is liaising closely with international partners regarding the situation on the ground”. The Irish national is thought to have been a conservationist, working with an NGO tackling poaching.

A Burkinabe soldier who accompanied them is still missing, but the Burkinabe army said on Monday that four soldiers had died in the last week in anti-jihadist operations.

In Spain, colleagues have paid tribute to the two journalists, with Spanish foreign correspondent Alberto Rojas describing them as “the elite of this profession.”

Reporters Without Borders said on Tuesday: “David Beriáin and Robert Fraile have been murdered while working on one of their great reports on nature protection. Despite our sadness, we are proud of their commitment to the most difficult and forgotten realities.”

Attacks on civilians and security forces by jihadist groups are a daily occurrence across the Sahel, where security crises has been fuelled by a complex alignment of political instability, economic deprivation and marginalisation.

Earlier this month the UN said the worsening violence in Burkina Faso had led to one of the world’s fastest-growing displacement crises, with 3 million people displaced across the Sahel.


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