Attackers Strike Burkina Faso Capital

Gunmen have launched attacks in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, with the French embassy and a military HQ among the apparent targets.

Burkina Faso’s government said security personnel had killed eight gunmen in what they said was a probable “terrorist” attack.

Eight members of the security forces were also killed, officials said, with 80 people wounded, including civilians.

Police said the attack had now come to an end.

It is unclear who was behind the attack but Burkina Faso Information Minister Remis Fulgance Dandjinou told state TV it had “strong overtones of terrorism”.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also said the assault was most probably carried out by “terrorist groups”.

Burkina Faso Security Minister Clement Sawadogo said there had also been a suicide car bomb attack at the military HQ that may have intended to target a regional anti-terrorism meeting.

He said a room was destroyed by the blast but the meeting had been moved to another location.

Burkina Faso police said in a statement that units had fanned out across the city to increase security and urged people to remain vigilant.

There have been rumours of an attack in Burkina Faso for some time, and these even prompted a recent security forces reshuffle.

But this is far bigger than what most people had expected. An attack on the military headquarters strikes at the heart of Burkina Faso’s security establishment, while the French embassy is normally one of the safest places in the capital.

Since Emmanuel Macron came to power, France has been trying to mobilise its former colonies in West Africa, and the United Nations, to tackle the Islamist militant groups which operate in the Sahel region south of the Sahara. But, so far, progress has been slow.

This attack may concentrate some people’s minds.

Earlier, pictures from the scene showed a cloud of black smoke rising into the sky. Witnesses reported seeing armed men getting out of a car and opening fire before heading towards the embassy.

Ouagadougou Mayor Armand Béouindé told France’s Le Monde newspaper that the attackers shot at the town hall and his office windows were shattered. “Apparently, it is a jihadist attack,” he said, but gave no further details.

One witness, Omar Zombre, told local TV: “We saw four people who were trying to enter the embassy on the east side. They were in civilian attire, with a kind of vest and backpacks with Kalashnikovs which were clearly visible.

“So they tried, but they didn’t manage it and so they tried to enter from the west side. We saw that they had set a car on fire. When we went up [to the roof] we heard gunshots from an automatic weapon, [it was] very intense.”

French President Emmanuel Macron urged French nationals in the country to follow the embassy’s advice and stay away from troubled areas.

The US embassy in the capital advised people to seek shelter.

French forces based in the country were also deployed.

Mr Le Drian told LCI TV there were “no French casualties, as far as we’re aware”.

The city’s military HQ and the embassy – which is also near the prime minister’s office – are about one kilometre apart. Local TV said the PM was safe.

This is the third major attack Ouagadougou has seen in the past two years. Islamist militants said they had carried out the other two.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said it was behind an attack on a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou in January 2016 that killed 30 people.

France intervened to stop that group taking control of neighbouring Mali in 2013.

But there are numerous other Islamist groups based in the region and militants have carried out attacks in several major West African cities in the past few years.

Burkina Faso also saw a failed coup in 2015. The trial for dozens of the alleged perpetrators began earlier this week but was suspended after defence lawyers walked out in protest against the military court.

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