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Saturday 23 September 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# Burkina Faso attack
Irish citizen killed in Burkina Faso was working in anti-poaching operations
It is believed that the Irish citizen was in a convoy on an anti-poaching patrol in the east of the African country.

LAST UPDATE | Apr 28th 2021, 7:10 AM

THE IRISH CITIZEN murdered in Burkina Faso was working in anti-poaching operations, The Journal has learned.

Rory Young, who was born in Zambia, was the co-founder and President of Chengeta Wildlife. He has been involved in the training of anti-poaching rangers in Africa.  

The Government of Burkina Faso has said that the bodies of two Spanish and one Irish citizen killed in an ambush in the east of the country have not been recovered.

Sources said that the JNIM (Groupe de soutien à l’islam et aux musulmans), an Islamic militant group, has claimed responsibility.

In a statement issued by the office of the Prime Minister, details are given about the incident which happened when an anti-poaching patrol stumbled across an insurgent position.

The Journal has learned that Rory Young was working in anti-poaching operations in the country. He has a long history of working in the area of wildlife conservation.

It is understood that he is an Irish passport holder and that his grandparents were Irish.

The two Spanish victims of the attack were named by their Government as David Beriain and Roberto Fraile – both were in their 40s and working as journalists.

It is understood he was working on a documentary with the Spanish journalists when they came under attack. 

In a Department statement, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney was deeply dismayed to hear of the confirmation “of the tragic loss of life of Irish citizen, Rory Young, in Burkina Faso”.

“Mr Young was part of a group that on Monday morning was attacked by unknown assailants in the eastern part of Burkina Faso. The Minister 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.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs is in contact with the family of Mr Young and continues to provide all possible consular assistance.

The Minister condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions of those who are responsible for this attack. We will continue to liaise with the authorities and partners on the ground on the matter.

Young’s profile on the Chengeta Wildlife website said that he was a committed activist against poaching. 

“Zambian born, Pro Guide, Ranger, Anti-poaching Strategist/Trainer, Author. Rory is an expert tracker with amazing knowledge, skills and highly developed intuition to become one of the best in his field.

“He has dedicated his life to wildlife protection and he co-authored, A Field Manual For Anti-Poaching Activities, a guide that provides workable solutions to poaching,” it reads.

The charity released a statement on their Twitter page this evening in which they spoke of their grief. 

“It is with the deepest sorrow and regret that Chengeta Wildlife confirms the death of Rory Young, our co-founder and CEO.

“Rory was leading a wildlife protection patrol in Arly National Park, Burkina Faso on 26 April 2021 when they were attacked by terrorists which resulted in his death and that of two Spanish journalists who were capturing his efforts to protect precious wildlife.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased right now. We respectfully request your patience, time and understanding as we deal with the loss of our inspirational leader,” the statement read.

The statement from the Burkina Faso Government said that the convoy came under attack in an early morning ambush yesterday.

It said that the bodies of the dead have not been recovered as yet but that videos confirmed the deaths of the men.

“At around 9am, an attack, led by armed individuals, targeted a mixed convoy made up of local elements of the defence and security forces (FDS) and expatriates on the Fada N’Gourma-Pama axis in the eastern region.

“The incident took place precisely near Pama reserve where elements of the convoy had travelled in vehicles and on motorcycles. The expats, three in number, were of Spanish and Irish nationalities.

“According to the first information available, during their excursion, the team came upon a position held by terrorists who opened fire.

“The human toll of the incident is three injured, four missing, including the three expatriates and one Burkina Faso citizen.

“However, images of the lifeless bodies of three expatriates not yet formally identified, have been circulating on social media networks,” it said.

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said it is aware of reports and is liaising closely with international partners regarding the situation on the ground.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs continues to closely follow unfolding developments in Burkina Faso. The situation is complex and officials are working with relevant actors on the ground, including Spanish and EU colleagues, to ensure that the full facts are established and followed up on as a matter of urgency.

“The Department has been in contact with the family of the Irish citizen and is providing all possible consular support. As with all consular cases, it would be not appropriate to comment on specific details of the case at this time,” a spokesperson said.

Sources have said that the situation is “very fluid” in the area and that diplomatic and security efforts were underway to confirm the identities of those missing.

The Apostolic Nuncio for Burkina Faso and Niger is Irish Archbishop Michael Crotty. He sent his condolences to the bereaved.  

“I was very saddened to hear that an Irish national and two Spanish journalists lost their lives while travelling in the East Region of Burkina Faso.

“Praying that the Lord may grant them eternal rest, I wish to extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to their families, friends and colleagues. Their deaths is a tragic reminder of the reality of the violence that affects so many people in West Africa.

“While we condemn such violence, and pray for justice for the victims, we renew our heartfelt prayers to the Lord for peace and for the end to all violence,” he said in a statement. 

The Irish Army Ranger Wing has been operating in nearby Mali as part of a UN mission in the area dealing with Islamic armed groups.

Burkina Faso, a poor, landlocked country in the heart of the Sahel, has been battling an Islamist insurgency for years.

The nation has endured regular attacks, sometimes intertwined with community conflicts, since jihadists from neighbouring Mali launched raids in 2015.

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