Three European journalists — two Spanish and one Irish — have been killed in an attack on an anti-poaching patrol in Burkina Faso, officials said Tuesday.
‘Three foreign nationals have been killed and a Burkinabe is missing,’ government spokesman and communications minister Ousseni Tamboura said in a statement, adding that six people had been injured in the attack in the eastern region of Fada N’Gourma-Pama.
A senior security source in the West African country said the three foreigners – all identified as journalists by the rights group Reporters Without Borders – had been ‘executed by terrorists’.
He did not specify who was behind Monday’s attack targeting the group, which had included soldiers and forest rangers as well as foreign reporters.
The attackers used two pick-up vehicles and a dozen motorbikes, according to security sources.
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez confirmed that two Spanish journalists had been killed.
‘The worst news is confirmed. All our affection for the relatives and friends of David Beriain and Roberto Fraile (de Baracaldo), who were murdered in Burkina Faso,’ he tweeted.
He praised ‘those who, like them, carry out courageous and essential journalism from conflict zones’.
Spanish foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya told a news conference that the two men were ‘making a documentary on the measures taken by Burkina Faso to protect national parks, to protect natural resources from poaching and to protect the populations living in the natural parks.’
She said Beriain was from Pamplona in Spain’s north while Fraile was from the northern Basque country.
Beriain was a war reporter who worked for a now defunct Spanish branch of CNN and had founded his own production house specialising in documentaries on illegal activities.
Fraile used to work for Spain’s CyLTV. According to Spanish media reports, he was wounded in Syria at the end of 2012 while covering the Free Syrian Army.
Both were described as seasoned war journalists.
Adriano Moran from Beriain’s production house 93Metros said they had only been in Burkina Faso for a short while.
‘Both of them knew that it was difficult terrain and that such a thing may happen. And the worst happened,’ he told Spain’s TVE.
‘David was one of the great journalists of the country and the world,’ he said. ‘He had received many prizes.’
Moran said Beriain had a satellite phone with him but had been incommunicado for the past few days.
Ireland’s foreign ministry did not provide details, simply saying it ‘has been in contact with the family of the Irish citizen and is providing all possible consular support.’
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the ‘terrorists have once again showed their cowardice and criminal face: the defenders of an obscurantism which annihilates all freedom of expression and speech.’