In November last year, the new French President Emmanuel Macron chose to outline his Africa strategy, including the fight against militants in Ouagadougou.
Suspected Islamist gunmen launched a coordinated attack on the capital of Burkina Faso on Friday, with gunshots and explosions reverberating from a downtown district housing government offices, embassies and the military headquarters.
Burkina Faso’s police chief and state television said shortly before midday that what were described as Islamic extremists had attacked the capital Ouagadougou and that specialized units from the security forces were responding.
“An armed attack is ongoing…around the office of the prime minister and at the United Nations,” the national police service said.
Pictures from the scene showed a cloud of black smoke billowing into the sky and municipal buildings raked with bullet holes and broken glass.
Heavily armed soldiers and armored vehicles were seen on state TV patrolling at newly established checkpoints to seal the area.
Several hours after the attack started, Burkina Faso’s government issued a statement saying that four gunmen had been “neutralized” at the French Embassy. It offered no details on civilian casualties.
Some analysts said that targeting French installations was symbolic for Islamist groups.
France retains close links with the Burkina Faso and French special forces are based in Ouagadougou as part of Operation Barkhane, a 3,000-strong counterterrorism force spread across the Sahel region to tackle the growing jihadist threat.
Last year, a spree of attacks in Ouagadougou by al Qaeda extremists left some 30 people from 18 nations dead as a sprawling Islamist conflict in West Africa spilled into one of the world’s poorest countries.