Simultaneous Attacks Hit Burkina Faso, a Growing Target of Al Qaeda

28 dead in terrorist attack near French embassy in Burkina Faso

Armed men attacked the French embassy in Burkina Faso and the country's military headquarters on Friday before being repelled in a battle that left dozens dead or injured.

Witnesses at the national television office which faces the French Embassy said that five people came in a pick-up truck in front of the embassy and started shooting after saying "Allahu Akhbar" and then set fire to the truck and began shooting.

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.

The U.S. Embassy in the city has advised people to seek shelter.

The Paris public prosecutor said it had opened a formal investigation into "attempted murder in relation to a terrorist enterprise", an expected procedural step after attacks targeting French citizens or interests.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the 2016 killings along with the jihadist group known as Al Mourabitoun.

In a separate development on Friday, the specialist United States website SITE, which monitors extremists activity, said kidnappers had released a video of a 75-year-old French hostage, Sophie Petronin, who had been abducted in northern Mali in late 2016.

A French official in Paris confirmed that an assault against the embassy was under way, as well as an attack on the Burkina Faso army headquarters.

French government sources said there had been no French casualties and described the situation as "under control". Guterres is closely watching and following the events and asked the special representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, to travel to Burkina Faso as soon as possible.

Aristide Voundi, a milkman who was near the army headquarters when the attack occurred, told VOA, "I heard a loud noise in that area and I saw black smoke". In response to the new violence in eastern Burkina Faso, troops from Burkina Faso and nearby Mali and Niger have increased patrols.

Among his objectives has been ending the use of French, the former colonizer's language, in regional schools. The 5,000-member force combines troops from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania, with France leading the efforts to bring in worldwide funding. Some critics say the military has suffered during the years of political upheaval.

Suspected jihadists killed at least 18 people last August during a raid on a restaurant in Ouagadougou and militants have targeted be security forces along its remote northern border region with Mali.

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