At least 16 people, including eight gunmen, have been killed in coordinated attacks on the French embassy and army headquarters in Burkina Faso‘s capital, Ouagadougou.
Witnesses say masked attackers used guns and explosives during the Friday’s assault.
At least eight assailants and eight security personnel were killed, the military said. Officials also said that more than 80 people, including civilians, were wounded.
The national police force confirmed that Friday’s attacks occurred in an area near the prime minister’s office and the United Nations roundabout. An attack also occurred at the French embassy, officials said.
The embassy came under attack around 10:15 GMT. A military police officer and four attackers were killed, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a televised address.
The second attack occurred when fighters opened fire on the army headquarters on the other side of town. Explosions could be heard, according to witnesses, and smoke was seen above some of the buildings.
“There was so much gunfire, damage everywhere,” one witness said.
“Two policemen went by near the army headquarters,” he added.
“There was a car with around four to six people. They opened fire, there was an explosion, we saw a lot of shots fired and a lot of smoke and then people started running.”
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Jean-Marc Chataigner, France’s ambassador to the Sahel, described the incident on Twitter as a “terrorist attack”.
“Solidarity with colleagues and friends in Burkina Faso,” he said.
— Jean-Marc Châtaigner (@Jmchataigner) March 2, 2018
‘Attack of opportunity’
Armed groups in the Sahel – an area traversing Central and West Africa – have repeatedly attacked Burkina Faso.
The country’s capital is home to a base for the French Special forces deployed in the Sahel to fight rebel groups.
Clashes and frequent attacks have led to tens of thousands of people fleeing the area.
Last year, an al-Qaeda affiliated group attacked a Turkish restaurant in the capital, killing 19 people.
In 2016, 30 people, including four assailants, were killed after an attack on popular restaurant and hotel in the city.
Michael Shurkin, a senior political scientist at Rand Corporation, which tracks security issues in France, said the incident may have been an attack of opportunity.
“The country is fragile at the moment,” Shurkin said.
“At the same time the French are battling fighters” in nearby states, he told Al Jazeera from Washington, DC.
However, the larger problem is whether or not Burkinabe forces can create peace on the periphery, where a homegrown armed movement is gaining traction, Shurkin said.
Burkina Faso is one of a number of countries in the Sahel battling armed groups in the region.