At least two European journalists were believed to have been killed in the Western African nation of Burkina Faso after being kidnapped on Monday, according to the Spanish authorities, amid reports that a third was also abducted and killed.
The two journalists, both from northern Spain, were working on a documentary about anti-poaching efforts in Burkina Faso, Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, said at a news conference.
She said the Spanish authorities were awaiting confirmation on the deaths from their Burkinabé counterparts, but she paid respect to the families and to journalists. She referred to the two reporters by their initials but did not disclose their names.
“As the situation of these two journalists reminds us, your profession is one of great risk in so many areas around the world,” Ms. González told reporters.
The two journalists were part of a group of 40 people who were ambushed on Monday in a nature reserve in southern Burkina Faso near the border with Benin, Ms. González said. The fate of the others in the group was unclear, but Christophe Deloire, the secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, said that a third journalist had been killed.
The convoy that was attacked also included an Irish citizen, the authorities in Burkina Faso said in a statement. Three soldiers were injured and a fourth was abducted, the statement said.
In recent years, Burkina Faso has faced increasing violence from armed groups, several of them linked to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Attackers on motorbikes have stormed countless villages and hamlets, forcing villagers to convert to Islam and sometimes killing them even when they do. Others have ambushed military patrols and killed members of the armed forces, and hundreds of schools have been forced to close because of the violence.
But the violence has also come from the military itself, which has killed growing numbers of civilians, sometimes in proportions similar to those killed by Islamic insurgents, according to rights groups and analysts.
In July, the bodies of at least 180 men thought to have been killed by security forces in the preceding eight months were found in the country, according to witnesses’ testimonies collected by human rights researchers.
The killings come amid a worsening security situation in the Sahel, especially in the border area of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, where organized political violence has spiked since 2019, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a nonprofit that tracks political violence and protests.
Last year was also the deadliest for militant Islamist violence in the region, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a U.S. Defense Department research institution. About 4,250 people were killed, according to the think tank — a 60 percent increase over 2019 — with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara linked to more than half of the deaths.
In Burkina Faso, violence has fueled a fast-growing displacement crisis, with more than one million people fleeing their homes since 2019, according to the United Nations’ humanitarian affairs body. Three million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, in a country of 20 million population.
Several foreigners have also been taken hostage in recent years. In 2016, an Australian couple were kidnapped in the north of the country on the day that armed fighters killed dozens of people in the capital, Ouagadougou. In 2018, a Canadian woman and an Italian man were abducted in the country, not released until 15 months later in neighboring Mali. In 2019, a Spanish Catholic missionary was killed, and a few months later two French soldiers were killed in a raid to rescue four hostages — two Frenchmen, an American and a South Korean citizen.