The capital of Burkina Faso has come under attack by suspected Islamist terrorists, police say.
Explosions and heavy gunfire rocked Ouagadougou this morning, with pictures of the scene showing “a large cloud of black smoke in the downtown area” above the army headquarters and the French embassy, Al Jazeera reports.
The government said four attackers have been killed by specialist security forces, and operations are ongoing in the area.
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The number of casualties is unclear, but reports suggest that several people have been wounded.
Communications Minister Remy Danjuinou told the Associated Press (AP) that Islamic extremists targeted both the French embassy and the Burkina Faso army headquarters, which are half a mile apart.
France’s ambassador to the Sahel region of Africa, Jean-Marc Chataigner, described the incident as a “terrorist attack” on Twitter. “Solidarity with colleagues and friends in Burkina Faso,” he said.
Witnesses say five attackers drove up to the embassy in a pick-up truck, shouted “Allahu Akhbar” and then set fire to the truck and began shooting, AP reports.
Burkina Faso has suffered a history of Islamist violence, with most of the attacks taking place in the remote northern border region with Mali.
However, in recent years militants have moved to targeting the capital. Last year, suspected jihadists killed at least 18 people during an attack on a restaurant in Ouagadougou. In 2016, al-Qa’eda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for an attack on a hotel that claimed the lives of 30 people.
The former French colony is an important regional base for French special forces, as well as an important US ally in the fight against groups affiliated with Islamic State in West Africa.
Last month, the EU announced it will double its funding for the G5 Sahel military force, which combats armed groups across the region.
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