BY The Guardian

Burkina Faso: two Spanish journalists and Irish conservationist killed

Two Spanish journalists and an Irish conservationist have been killed after they were ambushed by jihadists while on an anti-poaching mission in Burkina Faso.

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.”

“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.

Early on Wednesday morning, the Irish government confirmed that Rory Young, a Zambian-born Irish citizen who worked as a ranger, guide and anti-poaching strategist and trainer, had also been killed in the attack.

“Mr Young was part of a group that on Monday morning was attacked by unknown assailants in the eastern part of Burkina Faso,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

“The minister of foreign affairs wishes to express sincere condolences to Rory Young’s family, and to the families of the two Spanish nationals who also lost their lives in this tragic incident.”

It said the department was in contact with Young’s family, adding: “The minister condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions of those who are responsible for this attack.”

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 the 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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