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article imageThree Burkina Faso attack suspects still at large: French PM

By AFP     Jan 19, 2016 in World

A jihadist attack on a top Burkina Faso hotel was carried out by six gunmen, three of whom are still on the run, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Tuesday.

"Six individuals opened fire on the Cappuccino cafe before taking refuge in the Splendid hotel" in Friday's attack in the capital Ouagadougou, Valls told parliament.

"Three were killed and three are still being sought," he said.

Burkina Faso had not made public the number of assailants in the attack that left 30 people dead, many of them foreigners.

Authorities in Ouagadougou said the bodies of three assailants had been identified, but several witnesses have said they saw more than three attackers.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) on Monday named three gunmen involved in the assault.

It published photos of the three young gunmen dressed in military fatigues and wielding weapons, identifying them as Battar al-Ansari, Abu Muhammad al-Buqali al-Ansari and Ahmed al-Fulani al-Ansari.

Burkina Faso troops stand guard outside the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou on January 18  2016
Burkina Faso troops stand guard outside the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou on January 18, 2016
Issouf Sanogo, AFP/File

In a statement carried by US-based monitoring group SITE, AQIM said the Splendid Hotel was "one of the most dangerous dens of global espionage in the west of the African continent".

That attack came weeks after jihadists claimed an assault on a top hotel in Bamako, capital of neighbouring Mali, that killed 20 people.

Valls noted that the African democracies have become prime targets of the Islamist jihadists.

"Africa is the target of these terrorist acts, the target of these terrorist groups. And especially countries like Burkina Faso, Mali and Tunisia, which represent democracy and calm" on the continent.

Also in Ouagadougou Tuesday, the government met with about 50 relatives of the hotel attack victims "to give them information on the security situation and the situation of the deceased", including when they could recover the bodies, Interior Minister Simon Compaore said.

Questions about compensation, funerals and an eventual monument to the victims were also discussed, the relatives said.

Tributes poured in Tuesday for well-known Franco-Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui, who was severely wounded in the attack and late Monday became the 30th and latest victim of the bloody attack.

This photo taken at the end of 2011 and obtained on January 19  2016  courtesy of a friend  shows Fr...
This photo taken at the end of 2011 and obtained on January 19, 2016, courtesy of a friend, shows French Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui in Marrakesh
, AFP/File

In France, where she was born, President Francois Hollande paid his respects while parliament observed a minute of silence in memory of the dead.

Until recently, Burkina Faso had largely escaped the tide of Islamist violence spreading in the restive Sahel region and the hotel assault will heighten fears that jihadist groups are casting their net wider in west Africa.

Burkina Faso has been criticised for a delayed and ill-equipped response to the attack by its security forces, which have been weakened by recent political turmoil.

In another reminder of the country's fragile security situation, an elderly Australian couple were kidnapped on Friday in the northern Baraboule region, near the border with Niger and Mali.

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