BURKINA FASO: Army hqtrs, French embassy under heavy attack by terrorists

BURKINA FASO: Army hqtrs, French embassy under heavy attack by terrorists

An armed attack now underway in Burkina Faso's capital of Ouagadougou is centered on the French embassy, according to a post on the embassy's Facebook page.

A witness told dpa he saw five attackers get out of a auto and fire machine guns at people on Friday morning before proceeding in the direction of the French embassy.

The French targets attacked are symbolic given that French President Emmanuel Macron chose to outline his Africa strategy, including the fight against militants, in November in Ouagadougou.

Barricades were erected to keep people from that area and from the French Embassy and the prime minister's office in the eastern part of the city center where gunfire and smoke were reported.

The news site reports that the embassy had earlier posted, "attack in progress at the French Embassy and the French Institute".

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Burkina Information Minister Remis Fulgance Dandjinou said the attack "has strong overtones of terrorism".

A government source said 16 attackers and defenders died, while other sources reached by AFP from Paris sketched a bloodier outcome, with at least 28 killed.

Seven members of the security forces have been killed, officials say, with another six people wounded.

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday strongly condemned an attacks on army headquarters and the French Embassy in Burkina Faso, his spokesman said, Xinhua reported.

The French Foreign Ministry said the situation around the embassy in Ouagadougou has now "stabilized".

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the 2016 killings along with the jihadist group known as Al Mourabitoun. His association, Ansarul Islam, is considered a terrorist group by Burkina Faso's government.

France, the former colonial power in the Sahel region, has deployed 4,000 troops and is supporting a five country joint force gathering Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. But the terror threat in Burkina Faso is increasingly homegrown, experts say.

Paris had led by example, pledging $60 million toward operating the counterterrorism force whose tasks will also include tackling trafficking in humans, drugs and arms in a region plagued by insecurity epitomized by regular cross-border incursions.

The countries' troops join forces where they can.

During the 2016 assault, security forces waited for hours before trying to intervene.

Last year, suspected jihadists killed at least 18 people during an attack on a restaurant in Ouagadougou.

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