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Blast rocks Burkina Faso's army headquarters

March 2, 2018

Armed gunmen have attacked Burkina Faso's army headquarters in Ouagadougou, with violence also reported near the French embassy. A French envoy to the region described the incident as a "terrorist attack."

Soldiers in the back of a car
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/L. Laniepce

Deadly attacks in Burkina Faso

Militants killed at least eight people in a coordinated attack on Burkina Faso's military headquarters and the French embassy in Ouagadougou, authorities said Friday.

Speaking on state television, government spokesman Remi Dandjinou said the death toll was likely to climb, as many soldiers were seriously wounded. At least eight attackers were killed and two were captured, a military source said.

Authorities did not immediately release details on possible civilian casualties, but officials told a DW correspondent at least 28 people had been killed. The army's medical chief, Colonel Amado Kafando, told DW that around 75 people were being treated for injuries.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but France's foreign ministry said it was likely carried out by "terrorist groups."

What we know so far 

  • Armed assailants launched attacks on several sites in downtown Ouagadougou on Friday.
  • An explosion and heavy gunfire were heard at the army HQ, with a group of gunmen attempting to storm the building's entrance.
  • Several gunmen also attacked the French embassy.
  • Gunfire was also reported at the offices of the prime minister.
  • The militants killed at least eight people and wounded dozens more.
  • Police say they believe Islamic extremists were behind the attack.
  • Eight attackers were killed with others possibly on the run.

Car bomb at the army headquarters 

Security Minister Clement Sawadogo said the explosion at the army headquarters was caused by a car bomb. Witnesses said they saw masked gunmen attack the compound at around 10 a.m. local time (1000 UTC) as a thick column of black smoke rose from the building.

A short distance away, the French embassy also came under attack as a van attempted to break through the property's fence. Witnesses cited by the French AFP news agency said five armed men jumped out of a vehicle and started firing at passers-by. 

Karte Burkina Faso Englisch

Talking to the French TV channel LCI, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said there were "no French casualties, as far as we're aware," with other French officials saying the situation at the embassy was "under control."

DW on the ground

DW's correspondent Richard Tiene reported that businesses and schools were closed in downtown Ouagadougou.

"Security forces have surrounded the headquarters, Camp Guillaume, which is located in the center of the city," he said. "There is no sound of gunshots anymore, but there is a big cloud of smoke coming from the headquarters."

Other witnesses reported helicopters flying above the area housing key government and diplomatic buildings. Officials erected barricades to keep the civilians out of the targeted sections of the city.

French foreign ministry issues statement

French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke to President Roch Kabore by phone, condemned the violence and said France remained committed to supporting the fight against terrorism in the region. 

France's Foreign Ministry issued a statement on its website advising its citizens to stay "in a safe place" and "suspend all travel in the city until further notice."  

Separately, French envoy Xavier Lapdecab advised "absolute caution" to his compatriots.

French Ambassador to the Sahel region, Jean-Marc Chataigner, described the incident as a "terrorist attack" on Twitter.

The office of the Paris public prosecutor said it had opened a formal investigation into "attempted murder in relation to a terrorist enterprise," a step usually taken after attacks targeting French citizens.

The impoverished West African nation of Burkina Faso is a former French colony. It is one of several states in the region battling jihadist groups.

In August last year, at least 18 people were killed when extremists opened fire at a Turkish restaurant popular with foreigners living in Ouagadougou.

dj/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP)