Al Qaeda affiliate claims responsibility for Burkina Faso attacks


A Mali-based al Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for attacks in neighbouring Burkina Faso that left 16 people dead, including eight gunmen, at the army headquarters and French embassy, the Mauritanian news agency Alakhbar reported.

Eighty others were wounded in co-ordinated attacks in Ouagadougou, following two other major assaults there in the past two years.

The group, Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), often uses Alakhbar and other Mauritanian news agencies to claim responsibility for strikes against civilian and military targets across West Africa’s Sahel region.

Alakhbar, citing a message from the group, reported the attacks were in response to the killing of an JNIM leader, Mohamed Hacen al-Ancari, in a recent raid by French forces.

France intervened in Mali in 2013 to drive back Islamist militants who seized the country’s desert north. It retains about 4,000 troops deployed across its former colonies in the Sahel as part of the anti-terror Operation Barkhane and has aggressively gone after militant group leaders.

Previous attacks in Ouagadougou and near Burkina Faso’s porous border with Mali were conducted by allies of al Qaeda in reprisal for Burkina Faso’s participation in a regional fight against Islamist militants.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for attacks on a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou in January 2016 in which 30 people were killed. AQIM merged with other local jihadist groups last year to form JNIM.

Suspected jihadists killed at least 18 people last August during a raid on a restaurant in Ouagadougou.

In a televised speech on Saturday, President Roch Kabore urged the public to collaborate with the armed forces.
“In these difficult moments, I would like to reaffirm to Africa and the world my unshakeable faith in the capacity of the Burkinabe people to preserve their dignity and ferociously oppose their enemies,” Kabore said.

Jihadist groups regrouped since the French intervention in 2013. They expanded operations deep into central Mali, used as a launchpad to strike Burkina Faso, Niger and other regional countries.

Burkinabe authorities said four gunmen were killed at army headquarters, where assailants detonated a car bomb and four more were killed at the embassy. Two attackers were captured on Friday.

Local residents were left to wonder how their country remained vulnerable to such attacks.
“If the army headquarters is totally wiped out there is a problem,” said Souleymane Traore, director of the newspaper Le Quotidien.
“We are revolted by this insecurity and we must point the finger at those who are responsible.”

Security was reinforced on Saturday near strategic sites in Ouagadougou as Prime Minister Paul Kaba Thieba, flanked by ministers from his government, toured army headquarters and the French embassy.