Burkina Faso investigates extremist attacks, French to help

Burkina Faso investigates extremist attacks, French to help

Speaking in Paris, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France was targeted because it is "Burkina Faso's ally in its fight against terrorism". The attacks marked the third time in about two years that the capital, Ouagadougou, has come under co-ordinated assaults by jihadists.

Gunfire and explosions resounded for hours but had subsided by midday. Workers fled offices near the site of the violence, and helicopters were seen above the embassy.

Investigators are considering whether the attack on the well-protected French embassy was merely a diversion.

The French Embassy came under attack around 10.15am, with witnesses at the nearby state TV offices telling The Associated Press that the attackers had arrived in a pickup truck and began shooting.

Other attacks in the region, which have occurred over the past month, include the abduction of 110 schoolgirls in Nigeria on February 19, and Wednesday's attack that killed four United Nations peacekeepers in Mali. In the other attack across town, there were "numerous victims" at the national army headquarters, he said.

Remy Danjuinou, Burkina Faso's communications minister, said eight Islamic extremists had died, five near the embassy and three at the army offices.

To the west of the capital, heavy smoke rose from the army joint chief of staff's office, where witnesses reported loud explosions.

"Some of the soldiers ran into a nearby bank to seek shelter".

Those killed were all security personnel, Security Minister Clement Sawadogo said during a Friday news conference in Ouagadougou.

At the start of the Friday attacks, witnesses said, armed men got out of a auto and opened fire on passers-by before heading to the embassy. All eight militants were slain by security forces.

About 85 people were wounded and at least six attackers died. In 2016, an attack on a cafe and hotel killed 29 in the city.

Led by the Malian jihadist Iyad Ag Ghaly, the group is allied to Al-Qaida and has claimed responsibility for previous attacks in the troubled Sahel region.

Burkina Faso has been the target of jihadist attacks since 2015, but they had never previously been carried out with this level of organisation.

The Trump administration's statement mentioned a terrorist attack Friday in Burkina Faso by armed Islamist militants, which led to the deaths of at least members of local security forces.

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