Sunday 16 June 2019

Extremists stage deadly attacks in Burkina Faso’s capital

Eight militants also died in the assault on Ouagadougou, which targeted the French embassy and army headquarters.

Troops ride in a vehicle near the French embassy in central Ouagadougou (AP)
Troops ride in a vehicle near the French embassy in central Ouagadougou (AP)

By Brahima Ouadraogo

At least seven soldiers were killed when Islamic extremists opened fire on the French embassy and army headquarters in separate attacks in Burkina Faso’s capital, a government official said.

Eight of the extremists also died and more than 90 people were wounded in the violence in the former French colony in West Africa, which officials called a terrorist attack. There was no claim of responsibility.

Five emergency centres have been set up in hospitals, a military barracks and at a stadium in Ouagadougou to treat the casualties, said Col Amade Kafando, director general of Burkina Faso’s army health department. There are fears that the death toll could rise.

Gunfire and explosions resounded for hours in the city, but subsided by midday. Workers fled offices near the site of the violence, and helicopters were seen above the embassy.

Witnesses at state TV offices facing the embassy said five attackers arrived in a pickup truck, shouted, “Allahu Akhbar”, and began shooting. They also set fire to the truck, witnesses added.

A soldier walks near the rear of the Army headquarters, which was struck by Islamic militants (AP)

The area also houses other embassies, the prime minister’s office and UN offices. The French foreign ministry later said the situation near the embassy had stabilised.

Across central Ouagadougou to the west, heavy smoke rose from the army joint chief of staff’s office, where witnesses reported loud explosions. Windows were broken there and in the surrounding buildings.

The assailants there also arrived in a pickup and starting shooting at soldiers, witnesses said.

Five of the extremists were killed at the embassy and at least three were killed near the army headquarters, according to communications minister Remy Danguinou.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said it has opened a preliminary attempted murder investigation into the attack because the embassy was among the targets.

French citizens have been urged to stay indoors in the capital (AP)

It was not clear how many militants took part in what Jean Bosco Kienou, director general of Burkina Faso’s police, and French prime minister Edouard Philippe called a terrorist attack.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Burkina Faso’s security forces had received the support of the French to reduce the threat. He said the safety of French citizens in Ouagadougou “is my priority”.

The ministry’s website recommended that people stay off the streets and remain in a safe place.

The landlocked nation of Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world. It shares a northern border with Mali, which has long battled Islamic extremists.

Ouagadougou has been attacked by Islamic extremists targeting foreigners at least twice in the past few years, with 18 killed when extremists opened fire as patrons dined at a restaurant last August, and 30 people dying in January 2016, when another cafe was attacked.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to the president of Burkina Faso to express his condolences and support

Mr Le Drian said that Mr Macron expressed “our determination to fight unforgivingly against these terrorists who want to destabilise the Sahel and … pose a danger to our own security interests.”

Mr Le Drian said the French leader said that “this fight must continue”.

Press Association

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