Burkina Faso begins mourning after hotel attack

People urged to comply with security measures following 12-hour siege by al-Qaeda fighters which left 28 people dead.

Burkina Faso has begun three days of national mourning after al-Qaeda fighters in a vehicle from neighbouring Niger killed at least 28 people in an attack on a hotel and cafe popular with foreigners.

The national mourning began on Sunday, a day after government soldiers and French forces ended a more than 12-hour siege at the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou’s business district.

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said the people of Burkina Faso must unite in the fight against “terrorism”.

He also announced on the national broadcaster, Burkina 24, that security forces would be stepping up their efforts to thwart future attacks and asked people to comply with the new restrictions.

“These truly barbaric criminal acts carried out against innocent people, claimed by the criminal organisation al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), seek to destabilise our country and its republican institutions, and to undermine efforts to build a democratic, quiet and prosperous nation,” said Kabore.

‘Horrendous crime’

The attack, which began on Friday night, was the first of its kind in Burkina Faso.

When the gunfire and explosions finally stopped, authorities said 18 had been killed in the hotel and 10 had been killed at the nearby Cappuccino Cafe.

Among the victims was a Ukrainian woman who was co-owner of the cafe with her Italian husband, Gaetano Santomenna, according to Ukrainian officials.

Although Santomenna was not at the cafe and survived the attack, the couple’s son, Michel Santomenna, nine, was killed, according to the Italian foreign ministry.

Paolo Gentiloni, Italy’s foreign minister, called the child’s death “a horrendous crime” in a tweet, which also expressed sympathy with the boy’s father.

List of nationalities

The toll includes six Canadians, according to Canadian officials.

Others killed include seven citizens of Burkina Faso, two Ukrainians, two Swiss, two French and one each from the United States, Holland, Portugal and Libya, and one French-Ukrainian, according to Burkina Faso officials who released a partial list.

Other bodies were being identified.

The American – Michael Riddering, 45, of Cooper City, Florida – had been working as a missionary in Burkina Faso since 2011, where he and his wife ran an orphanage that also provided shelter to abused women and widows.

He is survived by his four children, two of whom were adopted from Burkina Faso.

Swiss authorities said its two nationals who were killed were also in Burkina Faso for humanitarian reasons.

Source: AP