7 killed, around 50 wounded in Burkina Faso attack

Islamist militants have stepped up attacks in major cities in West Africa the last few years, including deadly assaults in Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Niger.

People watch as black smoke rises as the capital of Burkina Faso came under multiple attacks on 2 March 2018, targeting the French embassy, the French cultural centre and the country's military headquarters. Picture: AFP

OUAGADOUGOU - Unidentified assailants killed five people and wounded around 50 others during an attack on Burkina Faso’s military headquarters in the capital Ouagadougou on Friday, said government spokesman Remi Dandjinou.

Speaking on state television, he said that two paramilitary gendarmes were also killed defending the French embassy, which also came under attack.

The explosion rocked the compound, setting the building on fire and sending up a thick column of black smoke.

Panicked residents fled the city centre on foot or motorbikes as dozens of Burkina Faso special forces and armoured vehicles took up positions in the area.

A Reuters reporter saw an ambulance entering the army compound.

“Burkinabe security forces are mobilized against the attackers with the support of security forces at our embassy,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in a statement.

The French targets attacked are symbolic given that French President Emmanuel Macron chose to outline his Africa strategy, including the fight against militants, in November in Ouagadougou.

France’s ambassador to Burkina Faso Xavier Lapeyre de Cabanes confirmed to Reuters that the embassy compound, around two kilometres from the army headquarters, also came under attack but gave no further details.

ATTACKS

Islamist militants have stepped up attacks in major cities in West Africa the last few years, including deadly assaults in Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Niger.

Suspected jihadists killed at least 18 people last August during a raid on a restaurant in Ouagadougou, and militants have targeted Burkinabe security forces along its remote northern border region with Mali.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for an attack on a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou in January 2016 in which 30 people were killed.

Five countries - Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali and Mauritania - launched a new task force last year to tackle Islamist militants in the arid Sahel region, to which international donors have committed half a billion dollars.