Two Spanish citizens have been killed in an ambush in eastern Burkina Faso, the Spanish government said.
The Spanish journalists and an Irish citizen went missing during an attack by gunmen Monday near a national park, said Arancha González Laya, Spain’s foreign affairs minister in a press conference in Madrid.
They were David Beriáin, 43, and Roberto Fraile, 47, both from northern Spain, a person close to Beriáin’s family said.
Both men were working on a documentary on how Burkina Faso’s authorities were tackling poaching and on the communities of people living in the park, according to González Laya. At the time of the attack, they were traveling with an anti-poaching patrol with about 40 people.
“It is a dangerous area where terrorists, bandits, and jihadists usually operate,” the minister said.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez sent condolences to the reporters’ relatives and friends in a tweet.
“Our appreciation to those who, like them, carry out courageous and essential journalism from conflict zones on a daily basis,” he wrote.
The Irish government said it was “aware of the reports and is liaising closely with international partners regarding the situation on the ground.”
An audio message that purports to be from the jihadist group known as JNIM that is linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the attack.
“We killed three white people. We also got two vehicles with guns, and 12 motorcycles,” said the recording.
Burkina Faso’s special military wildlife unit was ambushed Monday morning while traveling with the foreigners, 15 kilometers (9 miles) from their base at the eastern town of Natiaboni, Yendifimba Jean-Claude Louari, the mayor of Fada N’gourma, the main town in the east, said.
“This attack is of significant importance because it shows (the jihadists) capacity to mount a strategic and deadly attack against a significant convoy heavily protected by Burkinabe security forces and rangers,” said Flore Berger a researcher in the Sahel, the vast area south of the Sahara Desert that stretches across West and Central Africa.
After a life devoted to producing hard-hitting journalistic reports on armed conflicts, violent groups, and traffickers that took Berián around the world, the seasoned journalist and his wife were running a Madrid-based production house responsible for visually harrowing informative programs for some of Spain’s major video platforms.
Fraile, the father of two children, had covered several conflicts as a freelance cameraman, including the decade-long war in Syria. In 2012, he survived an attack in the Syrian city of Aleppo in which he was wounded by shrapnel in the pelvis.
Burkina Faso has been attacked by jihadist attacks linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State that have killed thousands and displaced more than 1 million people. The east is one of the hardest-hit parts of the country.