Twelve people detained on suspicion of terrorism were found dead in their police cells in west of Burkina Faso, the local prosecutor said on Wednesday.
The prosecutor for the town of Fada N’Gourma said in a statement that 25 people had been detained overnight Monday and “unfortunately, 12 of them have died during the course of the night in the cells they were being held in.”
An investigation has been launched and officers of the judicial police are at the scene as well as health officials, the statement said.
Security sources contacted by AFP said that “only the investigation can determine the cause” of the deaths, but one possible explanation was asphyxiation.
Independent sources told AFP that most of those detained were ethnic Fula, who are regularly accused of having links with jihadist groups.
In July 2019, 11 people suspected of drug trafficking were found dead in a single cell while in custody of the national police’s drugs squad.
In that case, the heads of the squad were relieved of their duties and an investigation was launched.
Burkina Faso’s security forces have regularly been accused of mistreating Fula people.
On May 2, a Fula teacher was found dead in a police station in Ouagadougou, according to the Burkinabe human rights organisation, MBDHP.
Suspected of having links with terrorist groups, he had been arrested on April 23 in Absouya in the west of the country.
Between December and January, at least four people, all Fula, were “victims of forced disappearances” in Ouagadougou, MBDHP said.
The Burkinabe army, as well as vigilante groups have also been accused of killing Fula civilians in the north and east of the country in the wake of jihadist violence.