Burkina Faso attack: Gunmen strike in Ouagadougou
2 March 2018
Gunmen have launched an attack in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, with the French embassy and a military HQ among the apparent targets.
Burkina Faso’s government said four attackers had been killed at the embassy and at least two at the HQ.
Seven members of the security forces have been killed, officials say, with another six people wounded. Other reports put the death toll far higher.
A French source said the situation at the embassy was now under control.
It is unclear who is behind the attack but Burkina Faso Information Minister Remis Fulgance Dandjinou told state TV it had “strong overtones of terrorism”.
Burkina Faso police have given an initial death toll of six attackers and seven security personnel, with another six people wounded, including two civilians.
However, security sources told Agence France-Presse that at least 28 people were killed in the attack on the military HQ alone. This has not been confirmed.
The BBC’s Africa editor, Will Ross, says it is not yet clear whether all the gunmen have been killed but the situation does now appear to be under control.
Analysis by Lamine Konkobo, BBC Afrique
There have been rumours of an attack in Burkina Faso for some time, and these even prompted a recent security forces reshuffle.
But this is far bigger than what most people had expected. An attack on the military headquarters strikes at the heart of Burkina Faso’s security establishment, while the French embassy is normally one of the safest places in the capital.
Since Emmanuel Macron came to power, France has been trying to mobilise its former colonies in West Africa, and the United Nations, to tackle the Islamist militant groups which operate in the Sahel region south of the Sahara. But, so far, progress has been slow.
This attack may concentrate some people’s minds.
Earlier, pictures from the scene showed a cloud of black smoke rising into the sky. Witnesses reported seeing armed men getting out of a car and opening fire before heading towards the embassy.
Ouagadougou Mayor Armand Béouindé told France’s Le Monde newspaper that the attackers shot at the town hall and his office windows were shattered. “Apparently, it is a jihadist attack,” he said, but gave no further details.
One witness, Omar Zombre, told local TV: “We saw four people who were trying to enter the embassy on the east side. They were in civilian attire, with a kind of vest and backpacks with Kalashnikovs which were clearly visible.
“So they tried, but they didn’t manage it and so they tried to enter from the west side. We saw that they had set a car on fire. When we went up [to the roof] we heard gunshots from an automatic weapon, [it was] very intense.”
@Usembassyouaga has received reports of gunfire in downtown Ouagadougou. Avoid the area of downtown Ouagadougou. Seek secure shelter. Monitor local media for updates. Check back here for more updates from the embassy #Lwili
— USEmbassyOuaga (@Usembassyouaga) March 2, 2018
End of Twitter post by @Usembassyouaga
French President Emmanuel Macron was being kept up-to-date, said the Elysée Palace in Paris. He has urged French nationals in the country to follow the embassy’s advice and stay away from troubled areas.
French forces based in the country have also been deployed.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told LCI TV there were “no French casualties, as far as we’re aware”.
The city’s military HQ and the embassy – which is also near the prime minister’s office – are about one kilometre apart. Local TV said the PM was safe.
The US embassy in the city has advised people to seek shelter.
This is the third major attack Ouagadougou has seen in the past two years. Islamist militants said they carried out the other two.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said it was behind an attack on a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou in January 2016 that killed 30 people.
France intervened to stop that group taking control of neighbouring Mali in 2013.
But there are numerous other Islamist groups based in the region and militants have carried out attacks in several major West African cities in the past few years.
Burkina Faso also saw a failed coup in 2015. The trial for dozens of the alleged perpetrators began earlier this week but was suspended after defence lawyers walked out in protest against the military court.