OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 18 people and wounded several during a raid on a restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital overnight, but security forces shot dead both attackers and freed people trapped inside the building.
“This is a terrorist attack,” Communications Minister Remi Dandjinou told a news conference on Monday. “At this moment our forces have neutralized two terrorists and the number of casualties, still provisional, is 18 dead and several wounded,” Communications Minister and government spokesman Remy Danguinou told journalists Monday morning. He said the dead are “mainly children and women” and the toll could rise because several people were wounded by the gunfire.
At least three members of Burkina Faso’s security forces were wounded during the assault, which lasted nearly seven hours, said Capt. Guy Ye, spokesman of the security forces.
The assailants arrived at the restaurant on motorcycles and then began shooting randomly at the crowds dining Sunday evening, he said. Security forces arrived at the scene with armored vehicles after reports of shots fired near Aziz Istanbul.
The assailants were “two young men” with jeans and jackets where they hid their weapons, said Assane Guebre, a shoe shiner who also watches customers’ cars and motorcycles.
Burkina Faso, like other countries in West Africa, has been targeted sporadically by jihadist groups. Most attacks have been along its remote northern border with Mali, which has seen activity by Islamist militants for more than a decade.
A Reuters witness saw customers running out of the Aziz Istanbul restaurant in central Ouagadougou as police and paramilitary gendarmerie surrounded it, amid gunfire. A French citizen was among the dead, another was Turkish.