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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Suspected terrorist attack in Burkina Faso restaurant kills 18

The attack continued into the early hours on Monday with gunfire still heard almost seven hours after the attack began

A wounded restaurant customer sitting on the ground following an attack by gunmen on a restaurant in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on August 13, 2017. Reuters TV
A wounded restaurant customer sitting on the ground following an attack by gunmen on a restaurant in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on August 13, 2017. Reuters TV

Eighteen people were killed in a suspected terrorist attack on a Turkish restaurant in Burkina Faso's capital, the government announced on Monday after an hours-long standoff which saw two of the attackers killed.

"At this moment our forces have neutralised two terrorists and the number of casualties, still provisional, is 18 dead and several wounded," communications minister and government spokesman Remy Danguinou said on Monday morning, warning that the toll could rise. He said the dead were "mainly children and women".

The attack began on Sunday evening at the Aziz Istanbul restaurant in central Ouagadougou which is frequented by foreigners.

There were conflicting reports about the number of assailants.

Two gunmen in winter jackets arrived on a motorbike and bashed into a car parked outside the restaurant at about 9pm, according to eyewitness Hassane Guebre, who works as a parking guard. He said the attackers opened fire when customers stood up to see what happened.

But a waiter at the Istanbul restaurant said he saw "three men arrive on a 4X4 vehicle".

Security forces launched a counter-assault at around 10.15pm against the assailants who were hiding in the building.

Mr Dandjinou said the 18 victims were of different nationalities, both Burkinabes and foreigners. Among the dead were a Frenchman and a Turkish citizen.

At least three members of Burkina Faso's security forces were wounded during the assault, which lasted for nearly seven hours, said Captain Guy Ye, spokesman of the security forces.

Customers were seen fleeing the restaurant in as police and paramilitary gendarmerie surrounded it amid gunfire.

"I just ran but my brother was left inside," said a woman who was in the restaurant celebrating her brother's birthday when the shooting began.

The wounded were taken to Yalgado Ouedraogo hospital, where one surgeon admitted: "We are overwhelmed."

"We have received about a dozen wounded, including three who have died. The condition of the other wounded is critical. Three of them are currently being operated on," he said.

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For more:

At least 10 killed in Al Qaeda attack on Burkina Faso hotel

Burkina Faso attack survivors recall night of horror

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President Roch Marc Christian Kabore condemned the attack as "a despicable attack that has Ouagadougou in mourning", and said on Twitter that "the fight against terrorism is a long-term struggle".

French president Emmanuel Macron condemned the assault by presumed extremists, praising the "effective mobilisation" of the Burkina security forces in ending the assault.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the violence, which continued into the early hours on Monday.

Burkina Faso is a poor landlocked nation bordering Mali and Niger, which has seen a string of attacks claimed by extremist groups in recent years.

In December 2016, a dozen soldiers were killed in an assault on their base in the north of the country. And in October that year there was an attack that killed four troops and two civilians.

The worst recent attack was an assault on a hotel and cafe in central Ouagadougou in January 2016 that killed 30 people including several foreigners.

Gunmen from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb attacked the Splendid hotel and the Cappuccino restaurant opposite, both popular with westerners, sparking a protracted standoff with security forces.

The hotel and cafe attack came weeks after extremists claimed an assault on a top hotel in Bamako, capital of neighbouring Mali, that killed 20 people.

There have also been kidnappings — of Burkinabes as well as foreigners. An Australian and a Romanian, abducted in 2015, are still being held hostage by Islamist groups affiliated with Al Qaeda.

* With reporting from agencies