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Al-Qaida-Linked Group Claims Responsibility For Attacks In Burkina Faso

People watch as black smoke rises as the capital of Burkina Faso came under multiple attacks on Friday.
Ahmed Ouoba
AFP/Getty Images
People watch as black smoke rises as the capital of Burkina Faso came under multiple attacks on Friday.

Updated at 3:22 a.m. ET Sunday

An extremist group affiliated with al-Qaida claimed responsibility on Saturday for two coordinated attacks in Burkina Faso.

At least eight people were killed and more than 80 people were injured in attacks in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou on Friday.

The government and United Nations called the two attacks incidents of terrorism. Gunmen targeted the French embassy while a "vehicle packed with explosives" and other gunmen targeted the headquarters of Burkina Faso's army.

The Mali-based militant group called Jama Nusrat Ul-Islam wa Al-Muslimin said on Saturday that the attacks were in retaliation for the killing of one of its leaders by French troops, The Associated Press reported.

Those killed were all members of security forces, Security Minister Clement Sawadogo told reporters Friday, according to CNN.

Eight militants described by the AP as "Islamic extremists" who carried out the attacks were all killed by security forces.

"Burkina Faso's regional and international military alliances to counter violent extremism in West Africa's Sahara desert region have made it a target," NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports. "Allies of al-Qaida have, in the past, demonstrated their opposition to such links and have twice before struck Ouagadougou in bold and deadly attacks."

France has troops stationed in the country, which is a former French colony. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France's President Macron pledged to "fight unforgivingly against these terrorists who want to destabilize the Sahel and ... pose a danger to our own security interests," the AP reports.

The wire service also quoted U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said the organization would "support Burkina Faso in its efforts to fight violent extremism and terrorism."

CNN adds:

"Previous attacks were carried out by al Qaeda allies in the region.

"An attack by gunmen last year on a restaurant in the capital left at least 18 people dead, including two attackers. The victims were of several different nationalities.

"A similar assault in 2016 on a cafe and hotel popular with Western diplomats in the same district of the city left 29 dead.

"The West, particularly France, considers Burkina Faso a key ally in the fight against al Qaeda in the region."

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James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.