Extremists stage deadly attacks in Burkina Faso capital

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Islamic extremists opened fire on the French Embassy and army headquarters in separate attacks in Burkina Faso’s capital Friday, killing at least seven soldiers, while eight of the militants were slain, a government official said.

More than 90 people were wounded in the violence in the former French colony in West Africa, and officials called it a terrorist attack. There was no claim of responsibility.

Five emergency centers were set up in hospitals, a military barracks and at a stadium in Ouagadougou to treat the casualties, said Col. Amade Kafando, director general of Burkina Faso’s army health department. There were fears that the death toll could rise.

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

Witnesses at state TV offices that face the embassy told The Associated Press that five attackers arrived in a pickup truck, shouted, “Allahu Akhbar,” and began shooting. They also set fire to the truck, the witnesses added.

The neighborhood also houses other embassies, the prime minister’s office and U.N. offices. The French Foreign Ministry later said the situation near the embassy had stabilized.

Across central Ouagadougou to the west, heavy smoke rose from the army joint chief of staff’s office, where witnesses reported loud explosions. Windows were broken there and in the surrounding buildings.

The assailants there also arrived in a pickup and starting shooting at soldiers, said Moussa Korbeogo, a trader at a nearby market.

“Some of the soldiers ran into a nearby bank to seek shelter. Several were killed outside and inside the premises,” Korbeogo said.

Five of the extremists were killed at the embassy and at least three were killed near the army headquarters, according to Communications Minister Remy Danguinou.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said it has opened a preliminary attempted murder investigation into the attack because the embassy was among the targets, a judicial official said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media identified.

It was not clear how many militants took part in what Jean Bosco Kienou, director general of Burkina Faso’s police, and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe called a terrorist attack.