Burkina Faso mourns 29 victims of terrorist siege of cafe, hotel

Burkina Faso's government began its first day of national mourning Sunday as authorities raised the death toll to 29 victims in a terrorist siege of a popular restaurant and cafe by al-Qaeda militants.

Authorities said nearly 70 people were seriously injured in the attack, which was launched Friday evening on the Cappuccino Cafe and the nearby Splendid Hotel in the West African country's capital, Ouagadougou.

At least 14 foreigners are believed to be among the victims. Two Swiss nationals, one Dutch national, one US citizen and six Canadians were confirmed killed by their foreign ministries.

French media reported that two French nationals and one Portuguese residing in France were slain.

Italy's Foreign Office said the 9-year-old son of the cafe's Italian owner was killed in the attack.

Militants belonging to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack, which continued overnight into Saturday with sporadic reports of gunfire and explosions.

The attackers first opened fire on the cafe before moving on to the hotel next door, which is popular with foreigners.

Burkinabe and French soldiers launched a counter-assault on the hotel and cafe and saved a total of 156 hostages.

Speaking on Saturday evening, President Roch Kabore declared three days of national mourning, saying Burkina Faso had become a first-time victim of "barbaric" terrorist attacks "of unparalleled cowardice."

"We will emerge victorious from the war that [the terrorists] forced on our people and the other nations of the world," Kabore said.

Kabore, elected in November in Burkina Faso's first free elections in 50 years, took office just weeks before the assault.

Sunday in Washington, a White House spokesman condemned the attacks in Burkina Faso "in the strongest terms."

"We mourn with the families of those killed in these senseless acts of violence, including Michael James Riddering, an American citizen who had devoted his life to working with the Burkinabe people, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who were injured," said Ned Price, spokesman for US President Barack Obama's National Security Council.

US authorities are still trying to account for all US citizens in Burkina Faso.

"The United States continues to stand with the people of Burkina Faso," Price said. "Acts of terrorism will not stop efforts by brave Americans and others from around the world who travel far and wide to support governments, civil society groups, and others working to strengthen democracy, improve healthcare and increase economic opportunities for all."

Landlocked Burkina Faso is the largest cotton producer in Africa and is rich in gold. Despite its natural resources, the former French colony is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Last update: Mon, 18/01/2016 - 15:56
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