Burkina Faso capital security tightens after jihadi attack

By Editorial Board - 19 January 2016 at 8:53 pm

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — In the wake of a weekend attack that killed at least 29 people, security was beefed up across Burkina Faso’s capital Monday as businesses and banks reopened.

The West African nation also announced a joint effort with neighboring Mali in the fight against Islamic extremists in the West African region.

“Please go ahead and search my bag. We want to be protected and there is no way to refuse this,” said Fati Doussa, to security guards as he visited a bank to get some cash. Metal detectors have been placed at banks.

“We know it is just going to be different from now on,” said Ousmane Sawadogo, a cell-phone seller some 200 meters (218 yards) from the Splendid Hotel which was attacked Friday night.

The attack was the first of its kind in Burkina Faso, a largely Muslim country that had managed to avoid the kinds of jihadi attacks that have hit neighboring Mali since 2012.

At the site Monday, forensic experts and investigators from France and Burkina Faso, dressed in white, filled the brown dusty street, gathering evidence in secured areas near the hotel and the Cappuccino Cafe.

Military forces ended the siege Saturday.

Burkina Faso’s security minister, Simon Compaore, said Sunday 32 people were dead, including three jihadis.

French Ambassador Gilles Thibault said Monday that about 30 people were dead in addition to the three attackers who were killed by French forces. Thirty others were still hospitalized, and about 180 had been freed by French and Burkina Faso forces during and after the siege, he said.

“We were awaiting an attack like this one,” he said. “It’s impossible to say if these types of operations will be limited to just this one.”

Officials Saturday said forces killed three attackers in the Splendid Hotel and another in a neighboring hotel.

Military spokesman Capt. Guy Herve Ye on Monday said, however, that they have clearly identified three attackers and are investigating what they thought was a fourth. He said that many witnesses said that there were women among the attackers, though he says that is probably because the attackers had long dreadlocks.

Two former Olympic officials, Jean-Noel Rey from Switzerland and Jean-Pascal Kinda from Burkina Faso, were killed, Swiss and Burkina Faso authorities said. It was not clear if they had been together during the attack or if their presence was a coincidence.

Kinda, 73, was a former Olympic Committee president who had gone to the Cappuccino Cafe to pick up a paper, said his friend and a local magistrate Mathias Tankoano.

Rey was co-president of the Swiss bidding committee for the 2006 Olympics, Swiss media reports said. He was in Burkina Faso for a charity project to open the canteen of a school, the reports said.

The toll also includes a Ukrainian woman who was co-owner of the Cappuccino Cafe, along with her 9-year-old son, according to Ukrainian and Italian officials, and six Canadians, according to Canada officials. The six were traveling together as part of a humanitarian mission, and four them were from the same family.

The list of those killed include eight citizens of Burkina Faso, two Ukrainians, two Swiss, two French and one each from the U.S., the Netherlands, Portugal and Libya, and one French-Ukrainian, according to Burkina Faso officials who released a partial list. Other bodies were being identified.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb put out a formal statement Sunday naming three of the attackers as men, according to SITE Intelligence Group which monitors extremist sites. It said it was a “drop in the sea of global jihad.”

The group on Friday claimed responsibility for the attack saying al-Mourabitoun fighters carried out the siege. Al-Mourabitoun joined AQIM last year and they claimed their first joint attack was the Nov. 20 seizure of the Radisson Blu in Mali that killed 20 people.

Benin’s President Thomas Boni Yayi visited Ouagadougou Monday to show support and the backing of the Economic Community of West African States.

“What could have led to such hatred? It is unimaginable. I am so dejected. We must prepare ourselves for an adequate response,” he said near the site of the attack.

Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said regional forces must combine to fight extremism.

“We need to combine our intelligence and military to better fight terrorism, notably at our borders. This does not only concern West Africa. We are in an asymmetric war. We need to train our armed forces for this type of combat,” Kabore said Monday. “From now on we are going to take all measures to prevent such things from happening again.”

Burkina Faso and Mali’s prime ministers met Sunday and agreed to share intelligence, strengthen transnational cooperation and have join patrols along shared borders, they said.


Associated Press writer Ludivine Laniepce contributed to this report.

BABA AHMED, Associated Press

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Editorial Board

Editorial Board

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