Burkina Faso update

Last night’s al-Qaeda-linked attack on the Cappuccino Cafe and the nearby Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou left at least 28 people dead, plus the four attackers. Over 125 hostages were freed by Burkinabé security forces, working with French assistance, during the hotel siege. Many of the victims were foreign nationals (Canadians, French nationals, Swiss nationals), and indeed these targets were probably chosen for their popularity with Western tourists. The five year old child of the owner of the Cappuccino Cafe was one of the victims.

Burkina Faso has seen its share of turmoil over the past year and a half, since a popular uprising ousted former President Blaise Compaoré in October 2014. A military junta took over, followed by a transitional government, which was briefly toppled by another military junta this past September, but that junta quickly backed off and restored the interim government in the face of massive public opposition. Elections in late November finally saw a legitimate civilian government put in place. Amid all of those events, though, the country’s security situation has been on the decline. As the hotel attack was happening yesterday, an elderly Australian couple who lived and did volunteer medical work in the northern town of Djibo were kidnapped by fighters with the al-Qaeda-linked “Emirate of the Sahara.” This was only the latest in a string of kidnappings and small attacks by militants in the northern part of the country. The “Sahara Emirate,” as far as I can tell, is another of AQIM’s subsidiaries/front groups operating out of Mali.

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