Burkina Faso capital security tightens after jihadi attack

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso -- In the wake of a weekend attack that left up to 32 dead, security was beefed up across Burkina Faso's capital Monday as businesses and banks reopened.

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The West African nation also announced a joint effort with Mali in the fight against jihadi elements in the West African region.

"Please go ahead and search my bag. We want to be protected and there is no way to refuse this," said Fati Doussa, who visited a bank to get some cash. Metal detectors have been placed at banks.

"We know it is just going to be different from now on," said Ousmane Sawadogo, a cell-phone seller some 200 metres from the Splendid Hotel.

The attack, which began Friday night, was the first of its kind in Burkina Faso, a largely Muslim country that had managed to avoid the kinds of jihadist attacks that have hit neighbouring Mali since 2012.

At the site, forensic experts and investigators from France and Burkina Faso, dressed in white, filled the brown dusty street Monday, gathering evidence in secured areas near the Cappuccino Cafe and Splendid Hotel.

Military forces ended the siege Saturday. Officials said forces killed three attackers in the Splendid Hotel, and another in a neighbouring hotel.

But a Burkina Faso gendarme official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the press, said they are investigating the person killed at the nearby hotel to determine if it was an attacker.

Burkina Faso's security minister, Simon Compaore, on Sunday said 32 people were dead, including three jihadists. The toll had earlier been 28 killed in addition to four jihadists.

The toll includes a Ukrainian woman who was co-owner of the Cappuccino Cafe, along with her 9-year-old son, according to Ukrainian and Italian officials, and six Canadians, according to Canada officials. The Canadian Press reported that the six were travelling together as part of a humanitarian mission, four them were from the same family.

Others killed include seven citizens of Burkina Faso, two Ukrainians, two Swiss, two French and one each from the U.S., the Netherlands, Portugal and Libya, and one French-Ukrainian, according to Burkina Faso officials who released a partial list. Other bodies were being identified.

At least 176 people were freed by Burkina Faso and French forces by Saturday, he said.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb put out a formal statement Sunday naming three of the attackers, according to SITE Intelligence Group which monitors extremist sites. It said it was a "drop in the sea of global jihad."

The group on Friday claimed responsibility for the attack saying al-Mourabitoun fighters carried out the siege. Al-Mourabitoun joined AQIM last year and they claimed their first joint attack was the Nov. 20 seizure of the Radisson Blu in Mali that killed 20 people.

Burkina Faso and Mali's prime ministers met Sunday, and agreed to share intelligence and have join patrols along shared borders, they said.

"It is obvious that, faced with this situation, both countries are going to beef up transnational co-operation with other countries, share intelligence, have mixed patrols at our borders and use adequate means," said Burkina Faso Prime Minister Paul Kaba Thieba.

Makan Kone, spokesman for Mali's prime minister said the countries will continue to fighting extremism in the region.


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