Al Qaeda affiliate claims responsibility for Burkina Faso attacks

Eight people were killed along with eight attackers during raids on the army headquarters and French embassy

This photo taken on March 3, 2018 in Ouagadougou shows a burned car outside of the French embassy, a day after dozens of people were killed in twin attacks on the French embassy and the country's military.
The government said the attack on the military was a suicide car bombing and that a planned meeting of the G5 Sahel regional anti-terrorism force may have been the target. / AFP PHOTO / Ahmed OUOBA
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A Mali-based Al Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility on Saturday for attacks in neighbouring Burkina Faso that killed eight people at the army headquarters and French embassy, Mauritanian news agency Alakhbar reported.

Eighty others were wounded in the co-ordinated attacks in the capital Ouagadougou, which follow two other major assaults there in the past two years. Eight attackers were also killed.

The group, Jama'a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), often uses Alakhbar and other Mauritanian news agencies to claim responsibility for strikes against civilian and military targets across West Africa's Sahel region.

Alakhbar, citing a message from the group, reported that the attacks were carried out in response to the killing of one of JNIM's leaders, Mohamed Hacen al-Ancari, in a recent raid by French forces.

France intervened in Mali in 2013 to drive back Islamist militants who had seized the country's desert north. It retains about 4,000 troops deployed across its former colonies in the arid Sahel region as part of the anti-terror Operation Barkhane and has aggressively gone after militant group leaders.

Previous attacks in Ouagadougou and near Burkina Faso's porous border with Mali were also conducted by allies of Al Qaeda in reprisal for Burkina Faso's participation in a regional fight against Islamist militants.

Extremist groups have regrouped since the French intervention in 2013. They have expanded their operations deep into central Mali, which they have used as a launchpad to strike Burkina Faso, Niger and other regional countries.

Burkinabe authorities said four gunmen were killed at army headquarters, where the assailants also detonated a car bomb, and four more were killed at the embassy. Two attackers were also captured on Friday.

Security was reinforced on Saturday near strategic sites in the capital Ouagadougou as Prime Minister Paul Kaba Thieba, flanked by ministers from his government, toured the army headquarters and the French embassy.