OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso, August 14 — Burkina Faso’s government spokesman says that the country’s special forces have ended an attack by suspected Islamic extremists on an upscale Turkish restaurant in this West African country’s capital, Ouagadougou.
“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.
“I heard a noise when they smashed a car with their motorbike and before I understood what happened they started shooting at the customers at the terrace,” said Assane Guebre, a shoe shiner who also watches customers’ cars and motorcycles.
The assailants were “two young men” with jeans and jackets where they hid their weapons, said Guebre.
The attack started at about 8 p.m. said Guebre, whose hands were bleeding from cuts on from when he threw himself to the ground to avoid the bullets.
“They were close to me, and I still don’t know how they did not hit me first,” Guebre said.
Amy Sawadogo, a worker at the restaurant, appeared to be still reeling from the attack, after she was counselled by a psychologist at a crisis centre set up to assist victims. Shoeless, she was wandering asking for her co-workers.
“I just want to go to the hospital and see who is still alive,” she said in tears. “I am calling them in vain, no response.”
The scene of the attack is currently sealed by security forces who are investigating for evidence and to identify the dead. Several officials including the prime minister Paul Kaba Tieba arrived at the scene.
Three hearses were seen early Monday morning to transport bodies after forensic police made their reports.
This is the second such attack on a restaurant popular with foreigners in the last two years.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the violence, which continued throughout the early hours of Monday. Gunfire could be heard almost seven hours after the attack began.
In addition to those killed, eight others were wounded, Communications Minister Remi Dandjinou told journalists. The victims came from several different nationalities, he said. At least one of the dead was French and another was Turkish.
The attack brought back painful memories of the January 2016 attack at another café that left 30 people dead.
Burkina Faso, a landlocked nation in West Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the world. It shares a northern border with Mali, which has long battled Islamic extremists.
In the 2016 attack the attackers were of foreign origin, according to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which claimed responsibility for those killings along with the jihadist group known as Al Mourabitoun. But the terror threat in Burkina Faso is increasingly home grown, experts say.
The northern border region is now the home of a local preacher, Ibrahim Malam Dicko, who radicalized and has claimed responsibility for recent deadly attacks against troops and civilians. His association, Ansarul Islam, is now considered a terrorist group by Burkina Faso’s government.