Gunmen riding motorcycles roared up to a Turkish restaurant in the capital of the West African nation of Burkina Faso and opened fire, killing at least 18 people and battling security forces in a hostage-taking standoff that ended early Monday.
The country’s communications minister, Remi Dandjinou, told reporters that security forces had killed two gunmen and searched for any others. He said at least 20 other people were injured in the attack on the Aziz Istanbul restaurant, a spot popular with foreigners in the capital, Ouagadougou.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
In January 2016, however, gunmen from the North Africa branch of al-Qaida attacked a hotel and coffee shop on the same busy avenue in Ouagadougou, killing at least two dozen people.
Al-Qaida’s North African branch, in alliance with local extremist groups, has been aiming to spread its attacks beyond its base in the Sahara desert, with assaults on a beach resort in the Ivory Coast in March 2016 and on the Radisson hotel in Mali’s capital in November 2015.
The group is under heavy pressure from a French-led coalition of forces targeting the militants’ desert strongholds, killing a number of its commanders. The group has vowed to attack France’s allies in the region.
For his part, French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that France would remain committed to working with the countries of the region “in the fight against terrorist groups.”
Burkina Faso, a landlocked, impoverished nation in West Africa, has largely been spared the terrorist attacks taking place elsewhere in the Sahel region.
Its president, Roch Kabore, condemned the attack, expressed condolences to the families of the victim and praised security forces for their prompt response.
“The fight against terrorism is a long term battle which is why I appeal for vigilance, solidarity and unity for the whole nation,” he said in a tweet Monday.
The attack began around 9 p.m. local time Sunday when four gunmen arrived on motorcycles, pulled assault rifles out of their bags and opened fire on diners on the terrace outside the restaurant, according to Radio France Internationale.
The restaurant was known as a place were foreigners gathered and it was packed Sunday night with a birthday party, the radio report added.
Security forces arrived in armored vehicles and surrounded the area, eventually cornering the gunmen in an upper floor of the restaurant where they took hostages, said Dandjinou.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said at least one of its nationals had been killed, and French broadcaster BFM said a French citizen also died in the attack.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Paul Schemm