Suspected extremists have killed several foreigners during a raid at a Turkish restaurant in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, officials say. At least two assailants were shot dead as police secured the area.
At least 18 people were killed and eight others wounded in the attack, Communications Minister Remi Dandjinou told reporters early Monday, adding that one French citizen and several other foreigners were included in the provisional death toll. Security forces killed two of the suspected gunmen.
Turkey's foreign ministry said a Turkish national was also among the dead.
Up to four attackers on motorbikes opened fire on dining visitors in Aziz Istanbul, an upscale Turkish restaurant in downtown Ouagadougou, police said. Security forces evacuated civilians from the site before moving against the suspects in armored vehicles. Witnesses reported hearing heavy gunfire for several hours after the initial raid.
"The operation has ended" but searches of the neighborhood around the restaurant are continuing, Dandjinou told a press briefing.
No terrorist group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and the nationality of the attackers remained unknown. However, the shooting resembles a similar assault in January 2016, when three al Qaeda-linked jihadists killed at least 30 people at Cappuccino Cafe in Ouagadougou, located just 200 meters away from the Turkish restaurant, before holing up in a nearby hotel. Almost half of the victims were foreigners.
France's role in the region
Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world, shares its northern border with Mali, which has long battled Islamic extremists.
The office of French President Emmanuel Macron said France's leader would speak with his Burkina Faso counterpart, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, on Monday to evaluate the security situation in Ouagadougou.
The statement added that France remained committed to working alongside regional governments in defeating terrorist groups.
France has deployed some 4,000 troops in Mali since 2013 to oust Islamist militants. However, the al-Qaeda-linked groups have remained resilient and even gone on to expand their reach, carrying out high-profile attacks, both in Mali and in neighboring Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
A group of African nations has already agreed to launch a multinational military force to tackle the Islamist threat in the region. However, the task force will not be operational until later this year and is already facing a budget shortfall.
nm, dm/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)