Ethnic clashes kill eight in east

Eight people have died in eastern Burkina Faso in ethnic clashes between the cattle-herding Fulani tribe and the land-owning Gourmantches, sparked by the release of four suspected murderers from prison, a local official told IRIN on Monday.

The clashes erupted in the village of Balere in Gourma province last Wednesday when four Fulani, accused of murdering a rich Gourmantche farmer and stealing 4.0 million CFA (US $8,000), were released from prison.

"The family of the deceased contested the release of the four and stormed into the village, attacking all the people they met from the Fulani tribe with weapons and machetes," Clement Zambsonre, the high commissioner for Gourma province, told IRIN by telephone.

A judicial official told IRIN that the four men, in prison in the provincial capital Fada N'Gourma since April, had been released because there was insufficient evidence that they were involved in the murder. High Commissioner Zambsonre said the four men were among those killed.

A security official said the violence had killed eight people, injured three others and another four people were missing. He added that about 15 people had been arrested after the clashes.

Cattle-herders and crop-growers live together in the fertile region of Gourma, which lies about 200 kilometres east of the capital Ouagadougou, but conflicts over land are common especially when the Fulani cattle stray onto Gourmantche pasture to graze.

High Commissioner Zambsonre said security forces were patrolling Balere and the village was now calm.