US-allied African soldiers who executed women, children caught by use of Google Earth

An investigation by British news agencies revealed the location of war crimes committed by soldiers of Cameroon, using satellite imagery to pinpoint the location.

The investigation initially began after a video surfaced earlier this year, showing soldiers herding non-resisting women and children (suspected of belonging to the Boko Haram terror group) to a berm, where they were executed by firing squad.

While many believed the video took place in Mali, the BBC used Google Earth to locate the distinctive landmarks in the background, located near Zelevet in Northern Cameroon.

The savvy British journalists pinpointed the site by scouring every detail of the video, which were then verified by satellite images. Going even further to determine the date of the video, the BBC used evidence of construction, demolition and even sunlight angles in the area to narrow the time of the killings down to sometime between March and April of 2015.

In an astounding example of investigative journalism, the researchers managed to identify some of the men involved, who have since been arrested.

Despite initial claims by the Cameroonian government that the soldiers in the video are equipped with uniforms, weapons and other equipment not issued to those in the military, a subsequent fact-finding operation by the BBC ruled this to be false, tracing the weapons down to their Serbian manufacturers and the Cameroonian military units that use them. Using social media, the claims of the Cameroonian government were betrayed by their soldiers’ love of posting photos of themselves in uniform.

To make matters more embarrassing for the Cameroonian government, the soldiers were tracked down to their very outpost, less than 1 kilometer away from the execution site. Adding credibility to the BBC’s claims, locals recounted seeing the same women being led into the outpost, removed and taken away, with the sound of gunshots heard shortly after.

In August, seven members of the military (ranging from a Lieutenant to PFCs) were handed over to authorities, forcing the government to make a full reversal of their previous statements. Well before the Cameroonian military could perform an investigation, the BBC identified all three men who pulled triggers during the atrocious killings.

Cameroon is technically an ally of the US. According to the State Department, “US relations with Cameroon are positive, although from time to time they have been affected by concerns over human rights abuses and the pace of political and economic liberalization. Cameroon plays a key role in regional stability and remains our strongest regional partner in countering terrorism in the Lake Chad Region.”

In 2015, the US government sent 300 troops to Cameroon to help the country in its fight against Islamic Militant group Boko Haram. The neighboring Nigerian government welcomed the decision by the American government, despite having requested more help from the United States. In addition, the US maintains a drone base for operations in the area. While US special operations troops operating in the area are generally not supposed to be in direct combat, sources claim that it does happen from time to time.

From first-world nations to places where running water is hard to come by, if you commit war crimes in today’s age…even in the stone age…you will be caught.

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