Burkina Faso’s communications minister said eight Islamic extremists and seven of the country’s soldiers were killed Friday in attacks on the French Embassy and army headquarters in Ouagadougou, the capital.
Communications minister Remy Danjuinou said five of the extremists were killed near the embassy and three others near the army head of state offices. He said that the death toll for the soldiers was likely to climb, as many others were seriously wounded.
Danjuinou said it was not clear how many militants staged the assaults in both locations and others may be on the run. He said gunfire and explosions had subsided and people were seen leaving offices near the attacks.
Souro Sanou, an official at the hospital in the capital, said that several people have been wounded. He was not able to give further casualty details.
Several U.N. agencies operate in Burkina Faso, which has tens of thousands of refugees from Mali and has been plagued, along with the entire Sahel region of northern Africa, with humanitarian crises, armed conflict and terrorism, reports CBS News’ Pamela Falk.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed that the attacks targeted the French embassy. In a written statement, he said Burkina Faso security forces had mobilized against the assailants, with the support of French security forces, to “reduce the threat.”
Le Drian said a crisis center had been set up at the ministry in Paris to monitor the situation. Safety instructions were sent to the French citizens in Ouagadougou. “Their safety is my priority,” Le Drian said.
Burkina Faso’s police director general said earlier that the capital was being attacked by suspected Islamic extremists after explosions and gunfire were heard. Jean Bosco Kienou told The Associated Press Friday “the form is that of a terrorist attack.”
Heavy smoke was seen coming from the army joint chief of staff’s office in Ouagadougou. Witness said loud explosions were heard around the army headquarters.
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.
Barricades were erected to keep people from that area and from the French Embassy and the prime minister’s office in the eastern part of the city center.