Burkina Faso captures likely key attack suspect: govt source


Ouagadougou (AFP)

A suspected key figure in the deadly Burkina Faso attacks has been arrested, a government source said Sunday, adding the assailants had seemingly benefited from inflitrating the army.

The suspect could be "one of the brains" behind Friday's attacks which left seven soldiers dead, the source told AFP.

He noted "very strong suspicions" that "army infiltrators" had passed information to the assailants for the coordinated attacks in the capital claimed by GSIM, a jihadist group allied to al-Qaeda.

Another government source had Saturday indicated the assailants appeared to be "aware of the typical routines and practices" at army headquarters, which explains the "ease" with which they reached their target.

Sunday saw further unrest when one man was shot dead after three people attempted to storm a roadblock in the early hours near the presidential compound, a government source told AFP.

Two of the trio managed to flee but the third was arrested and gunned down after attempting to seize a guard's weapon, according to the source said, who added that there was no apparent link to Friday's attacks.

Troops were patrolling the area following the incident and fired warning shots at bystanders who tried to go through a roadblock late morning near the heavily fortified HQ.

The suspect in custody was arrested several hours after Friday's twin attacks on the French embassy and the country's military HQ in the capital Ouagadougou, a government source said. The toll of seven dead soldiers was a revised figure after eight had been earlier declared dead.

- Other attackers may have fled -

A government source also told AFP other assailants "were perhaps able to flee" the scene of army HQ assault given it is near a busy market.

The source added nine assailants were killed, one more than previously reported. One had reportedly worn military gear.

At least 80 people were injured.

The government has said the attack on the military HQ was a suicide car bombing and that a regional anti-terrorism meeting may have been the intended target.

The carnage could have been even worse as the car bomb all but destroyed a room where the G5 Sahel anti-terrorism military staff were to meet only for the venue to be changed at the last minute.

Visiting the HQ on Saturday, Prime minister Paul Kaba Thieba condemned "with the utmost severity this terrorist attack, cowardly, which attacks our country, once again, which sows death, unnecessary destruction".

GSIM, which has admitted responsibility for previous attacks in the troubled Sahel region, claimed to have carried out the twin attacks, in a message cited by Mauritania's Al-Akhbar news agency.

The group said the Ouagadoudou strikes were a response to the deaths of some of its leaders "in a French army raid in northern Mali two weeks ago" which French military sources said saw some 20 jihadists "killed or captured."

Investigators are pondering if the attack on the French embassy was meant to serve as a diversion for the attack on the army HQ.

Situated at the heart of the diplomatic quarter, the embassy is well protected and the attack there saw four jihadis killed after they were unable to get in, a government source noted. A French prosecutor and four investigators were heading for Ouagadougou to probe the affair.

Nonetheless, even if the embassy attack were a diversion the claim of responsibility still singled out France as a named target.

Residents meanwhile spoke of their fear that more violence would follow.

- 'We're all afraid' -

"I just want it to stop as, the way things are going, frankly, we're all afraid," student Bouri Sawadogo said, saying that targeting the army HQ was "an attack on the heart of Burkina Faso."

"We're going to pray hard that the terrorists don't come back to Burkina Faso," chimed in Suzane Kouama, a trader.