18 dead in ‘terrorist attack’ on Burkina Faso restaurant

At least 18 people including foreigners were killed and a dozen others wounded in a “terrorist attack” by suspected jihadists on a Turkish restaurant in the Burkina Faso capital, the government said Monday.

Two assailants were also killed by security forces who launched a counter-assault following Sunday night’s attack on the restaurant popular with foreigners, Communications Minister Remis Dandjinou said. It was not clear how many gunmen were involved.

The security operation “has ended” but searches are continuing in buildings in the Ouagadougou neighbourhood around the restaurant, Dandjinou told a press briefing early Monday carried on social media.

The Istanbul restaurant is just 200 metres (yards) from a hotel and cafe targeted in an assault in January 2016 that left 30 people dead and 71 wounded, many of them foreigners. That attack was claimed by the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group.

A government statement described the latest deadly shooting as a “terrorist attack”, while President Roch Marc Christian Kabore condemned it as “a despicable attack that has Ouagadougou in mourning.”

“The fight against terrorism is a long-term struggle,” he said in a Twitter message.

A police officer who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity cited witnesses as saying at least two assailants arrived on a motorcycle around 9:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Sunday armed with Kalashnikovs, and opened fire on the Istanbul restaurant.

A waiter also said he saw “three men arrive on a 4X4 vehicle around 9:30 pm, get off the vehicle and open fire on customers seated on the terrace”.

Dandjinou had earlier said that “some people were held” by the assailants and that “some were released”, but gave no further details.

He said the 18 victims were of different nationalities, both Burkinabes and foreigners.

Turkey said one of its citizens was among the dead, while Paris prosecutors said at least one French national died in the shooting, which French President Emmanuel Macron condemned as a “terrorist attack.”

Security forces launched a counter-assault at around 10:15 pm against the assailants who were hiding in the building, the police officer said.

The shooting was intense at first and then sporadic, an AFP journalist at the scene reported.

Video footage posted on Twitter showed people fleeing, as shouting and gunshots are heard. Armed officers in uniform are then seen walking towards the attack site.

The gunfire ended around 5:00 am Monday, according to an AFP journalist who was near the restaurant.

– ‘Overwhelmed’ –

The wounded were taken to Yalgado Ouedraogo hospital.

“We are overwhelmed,” one surgeon told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“We have received about a dozen wounded, including three who have died. The condition of the other wounded is critical. Three of them are currently being operated on.”

Burkina Faso, a poor landlocked nation bordering Mali and Niger, has seen a string of attacks claimed by jihadist groups in recent years.

In December 2016, a dozen soldiers were killed in an assault on their base in the north of the country. And in October that year there was an attack that killed four troops and two civilians.

In the January 2016 assault, AQIM gunmen attacked the Splendid hotel and the Cappuccino restaurant opposite, both popular with Westerners.

AQIM named the three gunmen responsible and published photos of them, dressed in military fatigues and wielding weapons.

The hotel and cafe attack came weeks after jihadists claimed an assault on a top hotel in Bamako, capital of neighbouring Mali, that killed 20 people.

There have also been kidnappings — of Burkinabes as well as foreigners. An Australian and a Romanian, abducted in 2015, are still being held hostage by Islamist groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

Source AFP



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