The men were shot as they slept outside, having spent their days underground, choking in the Sahel dust, digging and panning for gold. They were killed by children -- some apparently as young as 12 -- and men who had arrived on dozens of motorbikes and were egged on in their murderous spree by women who knew the village well, according to witnesses. The local militia had left. The army came to the rescue for a matter of hours in the morning but then left before dusk, letting the attackers return the following night to burn the village down and most likely steal what gold it had.
In the end, somewhere between 170 and 200 people died, according to estimates by a local police source and other officials, and it still remains unclear who the killers were. The massacre in Solhan, northern Burkina Faso, took place over two nights of extraordinary brutality in June 2021. The killings soon faded from international headlines, absorbed into the rhythms of persistent violence in the Sahel region, an arid stretch of land sandwiched by the Sahara Desert and the African savannah, and wracked by the climate emergency.