Grave of assassinated Burkina Faso leader exhumed

AP News
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Posted: May 26, 2015 11:44 AM
Grave of assassinated Burkina Faso leader exhumed

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Authorities exhumed human remains Tuesday from the purported grave of Burkina Faso's assassinated leader, nearly three decades after the Marxist revolutionary was killed during a coup in this West African country.

The family of slain President Thomas Sankara is seeking more answers about his death now that the man who overthrew Sankara back in 1987 has himself been ousted from power.

Sankara was believed to have been buried along with 12 others, though some have questioned whether the remains in the exhumed grave are in fact his. Medical experts from Burkina Faso and France are overseeing the exhumation and will conduct DNA tests to identify the bodies.

Experts are expected to be able to also determine what kind of bullets killed Sankara and how many hit him, according to family lawyer Benewinde Sankara, who is not related to the slain leader.

The lawyer confirmed that human remains were exhumed Tuesday and that the bodies had been buried in the soil without caskets. The first remains were found at a depth of 45 centimeters (1 ½ feet) and included bits of red fabric, he said.

Sankara and the others buried alongside him were killed during a coup staged by his once-best friend Blaise Compaore. Compaore, who denies being a part of Sankara's killing, was forced from power late last year.

Sankara's family later demanded that his remains be exhumed. His followers accused Compaore of denying justice for the slain president. His widow, Mariam Sankara, first tried to pursue a case in 1997 but it never moved forward.

During Sankara's four years in power, Burkina Faso doubled the number of children in schools, reduced infant mortality, redistributed land from feudal landlords to peasants and planted 10 million trees that still help shade the capital.