Burkina Faso’s ex-president, Thomas Sankara

An autopsy has shown the remains of Burkina Faso’s ex-president, Thomas Sankara, a leftist hero known as “Africa’s Che Guevara,” were riddled with bullets, strengthening assertions he was executed in a 1987 coup, a lawyer said on Tuesday.

The disputed circumstances of the death of Sankara, a charismatic military captain famous for his trademark red beret, have clouded Burkina Faso’s politics since his former friend, Blaise Compaore, toppled Sankara’s government 28 years ago, Reuters reported.

Compaore, who ruled landlocked Burkina Faso for 27 years until he was ousted by a popular uprising last year, has always denied involvement in Sankara’s death. Calls from Sankara’s family for an investigation were blocked during Compaore’s rule.

A transitional government installed after Compaore’s fall gave permission for an investigation, and the body was exhumed in May, along with the remains of 12 soldiers buried with it.

Benewende Stanislas Sankara, a lawyer for the family, said the results of DNA tests to prove the body’s identity were expected in two weeks.

“The body was riddled with more than a dozen bullets in the arms, legs and chest,” said the lawyer, who is no relation to the former president.

The lawyer said the initial findings supported the family’s contention that Sankara was assassinated at the age of 37.

“The ballistics report and the autopsy confirm that President Thomas Sankara and his companions were killed by bullets from Kalashnikovs, automatic pistols and G3 rifles,” the lawyer said, noting these were weapons used by the Burkinabe military.

“There is no doubt about the criminal origin of his death,” he said, adding that at least eight people had already been charged in connection with the case.

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