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Several people killed in attack on Burkina Faso restaurant

Ahmed Ouoba, AFP | Burkina Faso gendarmes and army forces patrol the scene of an attack by suspected jihadists at a restaurant in the capital, Ouagadougou, on August 14, 2017.

Suspected Islamic extremists opened fire at a Turkish restaurant in the capital of Burkina Faso late Sunday, killing at least 18 people in the second such attack on a restaurant popular with foreigners in the last two years.

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The assault by security forces ended at around 5:00am GMT and the district is secure, Communications Minister Rémi Dandjinou told FRANCE 24’s sister station Radio France Internationale.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the violence, which continued into the early hours Monday. Gunfire could be heard almost seven hours after the attack began.

Dandjinou told journalists that at least 18 people were dead and eight others wounded, according to a provisional toll. He said two of the attackers were also killed.

'At first we thought it was a robbery'

Foreign Minister Alpha Barry told AFP the attack killed seven locals and at least eight foreigners including a Frenchman, a Canadian woman, two Kuwaiti women and male victims from Senegal, Niger, Lebanon and Turkey.

Three others have yet to be identified.

The Paris prosecutor's office confirmed the death of at least one Frenchman, adding that its anti-terrorism unit had opened an investigation.

Terror threat

Security forces rushed to the scene of the attack with armored vehicles after reports of shots fired near Aziz Istanbul, an upscale restaurant in Ouagadougou, 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.

At least three members of Burkina Faso's security forces were injured during the assault.

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The attack brought back painful memories of the January 2016 attack at another cafe 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.

The three attackers in the 2016 massacre were of foreign origin, according to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which claimed responsibility in the aftermath along with the jihadist group known as Al Mourabitoun.

But the terror threat in Burkina Faso is increasingly homegrown, experts say.

The northern border region is now the home of a local preacher, Ibrahim Malam Dicko, who has claimed recent deadly attacks against troops and civilians. His association, Ansarul Islam, is now considered a terrorist group by Burkina Faso's government.

Calls to deploy five-nation force

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned Sunday's attack and promised France's continued support to West African countries in the fight against terror groups.

Macron, who is holidaying in the south of France, praised the "effective mobilization" of Burkina Faso's security forces at the scene and expressed solidarity with the families of the victims.

Guinea's President Alpha Condé calls for 'operational' security force in the Sahel

France has its own Barkhane anti-jihadist operation in the region and has been pushing efforts to set up a 5,000-member anti-terror force, manned by Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, by October.

Guinea's President Alpha Condé, the current African Union chief, said the attack "shows the importance of bringing the force into operation" and called on the European Union to find the estimated 400 million euros ($471 million) of extra funding needed.

"We must accelerate the G5 launch so that Africans are on the frontline in defending the security of their citizens and that of expatriates," he told FRANCE 24.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

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