Burkina Faso Terror Attack and Security Risks
15 Aug 2017
At least 18 people are presumed dead and many more are injured after gunmen stormed a restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou. The attack began at 2100hrs local time on 13 August 2017, when gunmen opened fire on patrons of the Aziz Istanbul restaurant on Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, a busy thoroughfare. They subsequently barricaded themselves in the restaurant.
- At least 18 people have been killed in a terror attack at a restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou.
- Two assailants were killed by security forces and it is thought that they were members of a terror network.
- An attack by militants in January 2016, on the same road, killed 30.
Terrorism: At least 18 people are presumed dead and many more are injured after gunmen stormed a restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou. The attack began at 2100hrs local time on 13 August 2017, when gunmen opened fire on patrons of the Aziz Istanbul restaurant on Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, a busy thoroughfare. They subsequently barricaded themselves in the restaurant.
Security forces launched their operation at 2215hrs local time, with shooting finishing at 0500hrs local time on 14 August. Two attackers have been killed by security forces and the attack is now over. Foreigners are among those who have been killed. The exact number is not clear but reports suggest that those dead include two Canadians, a Kuwaiti, and three Lebanese.
Solace Global Comment
Attack in 2016
This event has understandably drawn links to the Ouagadougou terror attacks in January 2016. In this attack, gunmen launched an assault on the Cappuccino restaurant and the Splendid Hotel in the Burkina Faso capital and then a further assault took place at the YIBI hotel; all located on the same road as the Aziz Istanbul. 30 people were killed and 56 were wounded. The assailants also held 176 hostages, who were only freed after a government counterattack. Those who were killed comprised several foreigners including two former Swiss MPs; the attack was claimed by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in a joint operation with Al Mourabitoun.
Aziz Istanbul Restaurant in 2017
It is highly possible that the AQIM or the newly-formed umbrella group, Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), were responsible for this most recent attack and it also seems probable that they were following the same attack method. Namely, they specifically targeted an area popular with foreigners (as the Aziz Istanbul restaurant was), attacked during dark hours, barricaded themselves inside the restaurant, and it also seems possible they were seeking to hold hostages as they had a year-and-a-half earlier.
While reports suggest that two militants were killed in the security force’s counterattack on the restaurant, police have also noted that “three or four” gunmen were initially involved in the attack – a manhunt is likely to ensue for the missing attackers.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimeen
It is believed that JNIM or AQIM are responsible for this most recent attack in Burkina Faso. Terror groups continue to be a menace in the Saharan region of Africa. The civil war in Libya and Islamic State’s demise in the Middle East, has helped to make the region an attractive breeding ground for militants. In the past few years AQIM has conducted a series of high-profile attacks in the region. This includes an attack in Grand-Bassam of Cote d’Ivoire in March 2016 which killed 16 people, including a number of foreigners. AQIM, and other terror groups, regularly conduct attacks in Mali and have also conducted attacks in Algeria, Niger, and Mauritania. Militant groups in the region also routinely conduct kidnappings, with foreigners a specifically attractive target. In August 2017, Stephen McGown, a white South African, was released after spending nearly six years in captivity after being kidnapped in Timbuktu, Mali in 2011.
More concerningly, however, this attack possibly marks the first major, high-profile terror event since an agreement was reached between the leaders of Ansar Dine, Al Mourabitoun, and AQIM to combine forces to form JNIM. This attack could represent the beginning of a more active terror campaign in the region. Indeed, jihadist militants were believed to be behind twin attacks on UN peacekeeping bases in Douentza and Timbuktu, Mali on 14 August. In total, one peacekeeper, a contractor, and seven Malians were reported dead.
In the January 2016 attacks, the perpetrators were all non-Burkina Faso nationals. However, commentators have noted how militancy is on the rise. It is possible that the attackers were followers of Ibrahim Malam Dicko. Dicko and his group, Ansarul Islam, have a presence in northern Burkina Faso. The organisation has been accused of radicalising locals and have claimed recent attacks against government troops and civilians. It is unclear, at the time of writing, who is responsible for this attack, with no group yet claiming responsibility.
This attack, and the one in 2016, shows the threat posed by militants in Burkina Faso, especially to foreigners. Further targeted attacks of this kind should be expected in the future. With this in mind, travellers are advised to avoid areas frequented by foreigners during dark hours, including restaurants, bars, and cafes.
Those in Burkina Fasoâs capital can expect enhanced security measures and related travel delays as security forces search for the missing attackers and try to prevent further attacks. This includes police raids and searches, more patrols, and road checkpoints. The road leading to Ouagadougou International Airport was closed in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Travellers should ensure that they adhere to police instruction in order to spend as little time as possible stationary; stationary targets may attract the attention of would-be criminals or militant attackers.
In the short- to medium-term, travellers are advised to heighten their level of situational awareness and to review their journey management planning. It is possible, as previously noted, that this attack could represent the beginning of a concerning trend. If this is the case, it is important that travellers are prepared.
Travellers to Burkina Faso are advised to employ enhanced security measures to help protect against the threats of terrorism, crime, and a weak infrastructure. For travel within Ouagadougou, travellers should employ a security-trained driver and close protection agent. For travel to more remote areas, an enhanced level of security may be advisable. For all travel to Burkina Faso, travellers should ensure that they use travel-tracking technology alongside an intelligence feed. This should enable them to become aware of emergencies and let others know of any security-related situations rapidly.
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