Burials begin for Burkina Faso victims killed in attack

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso -- Burials have begun for the 10 Burkina Faso nationals killed in last week's attack on a cafe and hotel in the capital, Ouagadougou, highlighting the local toll suffered in the latest West African country targeted by Islamic extremists.

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Three burial services were held Friday and more were expected over the weekend, as Burkina Faso remains fearful of further violence.

For many in Ouagadougou, the attack -- the first of its kind in Burkina Faso -- points to the need for more stringent security measures to help the country rebound from a period of unrest, including the toppling of the longtime President Blaise Compaore in 2014 and a brief, failed coup last September.

"We are asking our authorities to ensure security and we wish these measures to be visible," said Celestin Pierre Zoungrana, chairman of the hotel and restaurant owners' association in Burkina Faso. "We thought the economy was back on track and we could revamp but we made a mistake and set down our arms, and the terrorists proved us wrong."

Security worries were further heightened on Friday, when suspected members of Burkina Faso's former presidential guard attacked an armoury west of the country's capital. The elite force, loyal to Compaore, was behind last year's coup attempt.

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore was inaugurated as president at the end of last year and named his cabinet just days before the Jan. 15 violence. The new team must respond to the changing security situation, said Cynthia Ohayon, West Africa analyst for the International Crisis Group. "They will have to reorganize the guards, their equipment and their know-how," she said.

According to the latest government figures, the extremist attack killed 30 people: 10 from Burkina Faso, six Canadians, three Ukrainians, one Italian, one Libyan, two Swiss, one Dutch, one Portuguese, two French nationals, one American, one French-Moroccan and one who has yet to be identified.

The government offered a mass memorial service for the local victims, but the families decided to have private burials.

Kabore attended a ceremony Friday at Ouagadougou's Catholic cathedral for Jean-Pascal Kinda, a former Olympic official who was killed.

"What is important for us is to get the bodies and bury them," said Mathias Tankoano, a close friend of Kinda. "We have to put his soul to rest in peace as soon as possible."

Elsewhere, relatives of the dead were struggling to adapt to life without their loved ones. Seydou Ilboudo, the 64-year-old father of Sylvain Ilboudo, a server killed at the Italian-run Cappuccino Cafe, said the man's family would have to split up.

"He had been working for a year now at Cappuccino Cafe and he was looking after his family, his wife and two kids," Seydou Ilboudo said. "His wife has to go back to her family. She will go with the 1-year-old boy, and I will take care of the 4-year-old daughter."

Boureima Ouedraogo, younger brother of Mahamadi Ouedraogo, a driver for Amnesty International who was killed, said his brother's death creates a vacuum not only for his family but for the local Muslim community. In addition to working for Amnesty, Ouedraogo, 42, had raised funds to construct the mosque of the Muslim Students Association of Burkina in the east of Ouagadougou, where he led prayers each Friday, often arriving on a motorbike with his wife and children.

Ahmed Sawadogo, who attended the burial ceremony for Ouedraogo, said: "He was the ideal senior brother, remembering others always."


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