Military headquarters, French Embassy attacked in Burkina Faso's capital

Four attackers at the French Embassy in Burkina Faso have been "neutralized," the government of Burkina Faso said Fri...

Posted: Mar 2, 2018 3:03 PM
Updated: Mar 2, 2018 3:03 PM

Four attackers at the French Embassy in Burkina Faso have been "neutralized," the government of Burkina Faso said Friday.

Both the French Embassy and the General Staff of the Armed Forces, the headquarters of Burkina Faso's armed forces, have come under attack, a government statement said, and there are security forces on the scene.

It urged people to keep calm and avoid areas where there might be gunfire.

Freelance journalist Yacouba Ou-draogo, who is in Ouagadougou, told CNN the shooting had stopped and that the people who attacked the army headquarters wore Burkinabe army clothes.

The Prime Ministry posted on Facebook that its office was not affected by the attack.

Burkina Faso's national police had warned people to move away from areas around the "vicinity of the Prime Ministry -- and the United Nations roundabout."

"The specialized units of the defense and security forces are in action," the force said on its official Facebook page.

The French Embassy earlier said on Facebook that attacks were underway at the embassy and the French Institute, a cultural organization located about a mile away from the embassy.

France's ambassador to Burkina Faso, Xavier Lapdecab, urged people via Twitter to act with "absolute precaution" as the attack was ongoing.

France's special envoy to Africa's Sahel region, Jean-Marc Ch-taigner, referred to a "terrorist attack" in a post on Twitter, as he urged people to avoid the city center.

The US Embassy urged people to seek shelter amid reports of gunfire.

"Attacks are reported to be ongoing in downtown Ouagadougou, in the Koulouba area. The affected area includes the Chief of Staff Headquarters. Avoid downtown Ouagadougou. Shelter in place. Monitor local media for updates," it said on Twitter.

France has a military presence in Burkina Faso as part of Operation Barkhane, which was launched in 2014 to combat jihadist activity across the Sahel region.

The West, particularly France, considers Burkina Faso a key ally in the fight against al Qaeda in the region.

The country was formerly known as the Republic of Upper Volta, when it was established in 1958 as a self-governing colony under France. It gained full independence in 1960.

It's not the first time that sites in the capital have come under attack.

An attack by gunmen last year on a restaurant in Ouagadougou left at least 18 people dead, including two attackers. The victims were of several different nationalities.

That assault echoed a similar one in 2016 on a cafe and hotel popular with Western diplomats in the same district of the city that left 29 dead. Responsibility for that attack was claimed by an al Qaeda affiliate, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Later that year jihadist attackers launched an assault on the Grand-Bassam beach resort in Ivory Coast, killing 16.

Developing story -- more to follow ...

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