On April 26, 2021, Roberto Fraile, 47, a Spanish camera operator with the Spain based 93 Metros multimedia company, was kidnapped by unidentified attackers along with fellow Spanish journalist and 93 Metros codirector David Beriain, according to media reports and Roberto Lozano, a friend of Fraile’s, who spoke to CPJ over the phone. The next day, Fraile and Beriain were confirmed to have been killed by those attackers, according to those sources and a tweet by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
Beriain and Fraile were filming a documentary about efforts to combat wildlife poaching near the Arli National Park in southeastern Burkina Faso when their convoy was attacked, according to those reports and a statement by the Burkina Faso Government Information Service. That statement said the convoy included a vehicle and motorcycles carrying three foreigners and members of Burkina Faso’s armed forces.
Rory Young, an Irish national and the head of the anti-poaching group Chengeta Wildlife, was also confirmed to have been killed, according to media reports on April 27.
“During their excursion, the team came across a position held by terrorists who opened fire,” the government statement said. Another government statement released the same day said that six people were injured, three foreigners were killed, and one Burkina Faso citizen remained missing.
Soldiers had tried to protect Beriain, Fraile, and Young as the convoy was fired upon, but they had disappeared by the time the shooting stopped, The Associated Press reported.
In the second April 27 statement, the Burkina Faso government expressed condolences for those killed and encouraged visitors to the country to cooperate with security forces.
The Associated Press reported that, in an audio recording, someone purporting to be a member of the jihadist group Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying “We killed three white people. We also got two vehicles with guns, and 12 motorcycles.”
French public broadcaster RFI’s Burkina Faso correspondent, Yaya Boudani, said in an April 28 RFI interview that the “the mission [to the national park] had been strongly discouraged” for security reasons.
Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya described southeastern Burkina Faso as “a dangerous area where terrorists, bandits, and jihadists usually operate,” according to media reports.
The Associated Press described Fraile as “the father of two children, [who] had covered several conflicts as a freelance cameraman, including the decade-long war in Syria” where he had been injured by shrapnel while covering a battle in Aleppo.
The Spanish Castilla y León Televisión (CyLTV) broadcaster, where Fraile worked for over 20 years as a camera operator, described him as “a brave journalist” and “an image craftsman, a patient potter of exquisite taste” who “alternated his day-to-day life with his passion, doing journalism where journalists are not welcome.”
Lozano, himself a documentary film producer, told CPJ that he traveled and worked with Fraile around the world, including in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“Fraile was an incredible human being, passionate about war coverage and sensitive to stories of people,” Lozano told CPJ.