Burkina Faso forces end restaurant attack; 18 killed

World Today

People evacuate from the area of a restaurant on August 14, 2017 in Ouagadougou, following a deadly attack by gunmen resulting in 18 deaths. (AFP PHOTO / Ahmed OUOBA)

Burkina Faso’s government spokesman said that the country’s special forces have ended an attack by suspected Islamic extremists on an upscale Turkish restaurant in this West African country’s capital, Ouagadougou.

“At this moment our forces have neutralized two terrorists and the number of casualties, still provisional, is 18 dead and several wounded,” Communications Minister and government spokesman Remy Danguinou told journalists Monday morning.

He said the dead are “mainly children and women” and the toll could rise because several people were wounded by the gunfire.

At least three members of Burkina Faso’s security forces were wounded during the assault, which lasted nearly seven hours, said Capt. Guy Ye, spokesman of the security forces.

The assailants arrived at the restaurant on motorcycles and then began shooting randomly at the crowds dining Sunday evening, he said. Security forces arrived at the scene with armored vehicles after reports of shots fired near Aziz Istanbul.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the violence, which continued into the early hours Monday. Gunfire could be heard almost seven hours after the attack began.

“I heard a noise when they smashed a car with their motorbike and before I understood what happened they started shooting at the customers at the terrace,” said Assane Guebre, a shoe shiner who also watches customers’ cars and motorcycles.

The assailants were “two young men” with jeans and jackets where they hid their weapons, said Guebre.

The attack started at about 8 p.m. said Guebre, whose hands were bleeding from cuts on from when he threw himself to the ground to avoid the bullets.

“They were close to me, and I still don’t know how they did not hit me first,” Guebre said.

Amy Sawadogo, a worker at the restaurant, appeared to be still reeling from the attack, after she was counseled by a psychologist at a crisis center set up to assist victims. Shoeless, she was wandering asking for her co-workers.

“I just want to go to the hospital and see who is still alive,” she said in tears. “I am calling them in vain, no response.”

The scene of the attack is currently sealed by security forces who are investigating for evidence and to identify the dead. Several officials including the prime minister Paul Kaba Tieba arrived at the scene.

Three hearses were seen early Monday morning to transport bodies after forensic police made their reports.

Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said he sends his condolences to the victims of the suspected extremist attack on a popular restaurant in which 18 people died in the capital.

“The fight against terrorism is a long-term battle,” he said in a statement. “That’s why I’m calling for vigilance, solidarity and unity of the whole nation in order to face the cowardice of our adversaries.”

A statement Monday from the office of French President Emmanuel Macron said he discussed the attack and efforts to identify both its victims and organizers in a call with Kabore.

It said the two leaders agreed that it is urgent “to accelerate the putting in place” of the new 5,000-strong anti-terror force. With contributions from Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad — known as the G5 — the force is to deploy by September.

The statement said the two presidents will be in contact in coming days with other leaders in the region “to pursue this mobilization.”

Macron has condemned the attack by suspected Islamic extremists at a Turkish restaurant in the capital of Burkina Faso and promised France’s continued support to countries in West Africa against terror groups.

Burkina Faso’s Foreign Ministry that several foreigners were among the 18 killed, including two Kuwaitis, and one person each from France, Senegal, Nigeria, Lebanon and Turkey. Seven Burkina Faso citizens were killed and authorities said three other victims had not yet been identified.

Victims also included two Canadians, Canada’s foreign minister said.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said her heartfelt condolences go out to the loved ones of this targeted attack. Freeland says Canadian consular officials are providing assistance to their loved ones. She says out of the respect of the next kin they won’t share further details.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry released a statement Monday condemning “in the strongest way” the attack on the upscale Aziz Istanbul restaurant which killed at least 18 people.

This is the second such attack on a restaurant popular with foreigners in the last two years.

In addition to those killed, eight others were wounded, Communications Minister Remi Dandjinou told journalists. The victims came from several different nationalities, he said. At least one of the dead was French and another was Turkish.

The attack brought back painful memories of the January 2016 attack at another cafe that left 30 people dead.

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

In the 2016 attack the attackers were of foreign origin, according to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which claimed responsibility for those killings along with the jihadist group known as Al Mourabitoun. But the terror threat in Burkina Faso is increasingly homegrown, experts say.

The northern border region is now the home of a local preacher, Ibrahim Malam Dicko, who radicalized and has claimed responsibility for recent deadly attacks against troops and civilians. His association, Ansarul Islam, is now considered a terrorist group by Burkina Faso’s government.

Story by the Associated Press