Burkina Faso arrests four French citizens on spying claims

Burkina Faso arrests four French citizens on spying claims

Burkina Faso (AFP): Four French citizens have been arrested in Burkina Faso on claims they are foreign intelligence agents, a Burkinabe and diplomatic sources in the West African country said Tuesday.

“We are verifying the real work of these four French residents considered agents of the DGSE,” the Burkinabe source said, referring to France’s foreign intelligence service.

A French diplomatic source told AFP that “four French officials, holders of diplomatic passports and visas, were arrested in Ouagadougou by the Burkinabe police on December 1”.

“These four technicians were in Burkina Faso to carry out computer maintenance work for the France embassy,” the source added.

“The French government takes note of the ongoing legal proceedings, but rejects accusations that these technicians were sent to Burkina Faso for reasons other than their computer maintenance work,” said the diplomatic source.

The source said France demands “their return to France without delay”.

A European diplomatic source said the French technicians were “known to their Burkinabe colleagues”.

Jeune Afrique magazine first reported on Tuesday that the four had been arrested in the capital of Ouagadougou on spying accusations.

“Everything is being done to secure their release,” the French diplomatic source said.

The Burkinabe source, meanwhile, said that neighbouring Togo was “helping us to find a solution”.

Relations between Burkina Faso and former colonial power France plummeted after the military seized power in a 2022 coup, citing failing efforts to quash a jihadist insurgency that erupted in 2015.

The country’s military leaders, headed by Captain Ibrahim Traore, later ordered the French forces that had been helping the anti-jihadist fight to quit the country in February this year.

More than 17,000 people have died in attacks in Burkina Faso since 2015, according to a count by an NGO monitor called the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED).

Two million people have been uprooted by the violence.