Suspected jihadists killed at least 17 people and wounded eight during a raid on a restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital on Sunday, the communications’ minister said, as security forces at the scene tried to end the attack.
A witness saw customers running out of the Aziz Istanbul restaurant in Ouagadougou as police and paramilitary gendarmerie surrounded it amid gunfire.
“This is a terrorist attack,” Communications Minister Remi Dandjinou told a news conference. He said the toll was provisional because the security operation was still underway.
A woman said she was in the restaurant celebrating her brother’s birthday when the shooting started.
“I just ran but my brother was left inside,” the woman said as she fled the building.
Burkina Faso, like other countries in West Africa, has been targeted sporadically by jihadist groups operating across Africa’s Sahel. Most attacks have been along its remote northern border region with Mali, which has seen attacks by Islamist militants for more than a decade.
Thirty people were killed when gunmen attacked a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou in January 2016 in an incident claimed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
A new al-Qaeda-linked alliance of Malian jihadist groups claimed an attack in June that killed at least five people at a luxury Mali resort popular with Western expatriates just outside the capital, Bamako.
African nations launched a new multinational military force to tackle Islamist militants in the Sahel last month, but it won’t be operational until later this year and faces a budget shortfall.