Tuesday, August 16

Al Qaeda Kills At Least 27 In Burkina Attacks



At least 27 people have been killed after al Qaeda militants attacked a top hotel and restaurant.

Security forces freed 126 hostages around 12 hours after the extremists launched the assaults on the Splendid Hotel and the Cappuccino Cafe across the road in Ouagadougou.

French ambassador Gilles Thibault said 27 people had been killed. Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Kabore earlier said the “partial death toll” in the “cowardly and vile” attacks was 23.

The victims came from 18 different countries, security minister Simon Compaore said. Four militants were killed. Two of the attackers were women, the president said on national radio.

The attack came as two Austrians, a doctor and his wife, were kidnapped in northern Burkina Faso, the security ministry said. It was not immediately clear if the kidnapping was linked to the attacks.

Mr Compaore said troops, supported by the French military, ended the siege at Splendid Hotel and the Cappuccino Cafe, both popular with Westerners and UN staff, on Saturday morning.

As the other operation ended, a second assault then unfolded at the Hotel Yibi nearby. One of the four dead attacks was killed in the Yibi.

Thirty-three hostages were also wounded. Al Qaeda of Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed responsibility, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

The jihadists launched the assaults at around 8.30pm local time on Friday. They fired into the air to drive back crowds and torched vehicles, witnesses said.

There were around five to seven attackers, according to witnesses. A woman who survived the Cappuccino restaurant assault told how she had to “play dead”.

“We had just placed our meal orders in Cafe Cappuccino and around 15 minutes later we heard gunshots,” she told the Associated Press, from hospital.

“They started to shoot at everyone. We dropped to the ground and as soon as anyone raised their heads they fired at them immediately. We had to play dead.

“They shook people by the foot to see if they were alive or not, and, if they were alive, they shot them. “They were shooting on the ground floor and then went upstairs and shot downwards as well, and continued shooting.

“When they went upstairs they set the place on fire and left via the roof. “The room was completely on fire and it was impossible to breathe.”

Robert Sangare, the head of Yalgado Ouedraogo hospital in the city, told the AFP news agency that one European patient said the gunmen appeared to target white people.

Dozens of French troops arrived overnight from neighbouring Mali to help. A US defence official said one US military member was providing “advice and assistance” to French forces.

Burkina Faso, a largely Muslim country, has endured bouts of political turmoil since 2014 when veteran president Blaise Compaore was overthrown in a popular protest.

But the landlocked country has been largely spared violence by Islamist militants who have staged attacks in neighbouring Mali. AQIM was behind a similar attack that left 20 dead at a luxury hotel in the Malian capital in November.