Militant Attack on Burkina Faso Restaurant Kills 18 People

  • Assault on restaurant happened on same street as 2016 attack
  • ‘Terrorist threat looms over most of Sahel region’: analyst

Gunmen killed 18 people and injured 22 in an attack on a restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, the second assault in the city center in less than two years that comes amid a surge of militant violence in West Africa.

Two militants were shot by security forces before the attack ended by 5 a.m. on Monday, according to a government statement. At least seven foreigners were among 15 identified casualties, including two nationals from Kuwait and citizens from Canada, Senegal, France, Nigeria and Turkey, trial prosecutor Maiza Sereme, who is leading an investigation into the attack, told reporters in Ouagadougou on Monday.

Five soldiers were among the injured while security forces freed 40 hostages, Sereme said.

Two gunmen in winter jackets arrived on a motorbike and bashed into a car parked outside the Aziz Istanbul restaurant at about 9 p.m., according to Hassane Guebre, who works as a parking guard. When customers heard the noise and stood up to see what had happened, the two immediately opened fire, he said.

The restaurant is less than 400 meters (440 yards) from the Cappuccino Cafe and Splendid Hotel that were attacked in January 2016. Both are on the same street in the city center.

Jihadist Threat

“The attack illustrates that the threat of terrorism now looms over most of the Sahel region, having previously been largely confined to northern Mali,” Sean Smith, senior Africa analyst at global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said in emailed comments. “There is unquestionably a need to improve border security and intelligence-sharing across West Africa.”

While terrorist attacks were rare in West Africa a decade ago, militant strikes in Ivory Coast, Mali and Burkina Faso have killed hundreds of people in the past few years. Instability in northern Mali and the presence of militant groups in the Sahel region, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, have caused a spillover of violence into neighboring countries.

“The fight against terrorism is a long-term issue,” Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said in a statement Monday. “That’s why I’m calling for the vigilance, solidarity and unity of the entire nation in order to face the cowardliness of our opponents.”

Burkina Faso is part of a group of five West African nations that’s planning to deploy a 5,000-strong joint force this year, mostly alongside national borders, to combat the jihadist threat. The United Nations Security Council has authorized the military operation, but won’t help with funding because of opposition from the U.S., which wants to curb spending on the UN.

Guinean President Alpha Conde on Monday called for stronger international support for the force, known as G5, according to Radio France Internationale.

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