(Bloomberg) -- Gunmen attacked the French embassy in the capital of Burkina Faso on Friday and targeted the nation’s military headquarters, leaving at least eight members of the security forces dead in the West African nation that has been rocked by violence from jihadist groups based in neighboring Mali.
A vehicle laden with explosives was used in the raid that began at about 10 a.m., causing “huge damage,” Security Minister Clement Sawadogo told reporters late Friday. Special forces together with French embassy military staff have brought the situation under control, Communication Minister Remi Dandjinou said in an interview earlier in the day. The explosives destroyed part of the army headquarters, he said.
A French cultural center, the Institut Georges Melies, was also affected. Eight assailants were killed and about 80 people were injured, according to the government.
“We can’t deny that the raid has a strong terrorist connotation,” Dandjinou said. Intelligence services are trying to determine “whether this is linked to the expansion of terrorist groups in the Sahel or related to something else,” he said. The Sahel is a semi-arid region stretching along the southern end of the Sahara from Mali to Nigeria.
Burkina Faso’s capital has been targeted by al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants since 2016, when gunmen stormed into a luxury hotel and a restaurant in the city center and killed at least 22 people, including foreigners. A similar raid on a restaurant in the same street occurred last year, leaving almost 20 people dead.
While responsibility for the attacks in the capital was claimed by Mali-based militants, the emergence of a home-grown Islamist militant group that’s active near the Malian border has raised concerns over Burkina Faso’s stability. Saudi Arabia, France and the U.S. have pledged to help fund a regional force to fight militants known as the G5 Sahel. The five West African nations that are contributing troops to the force include Burkina Faso and Mali.
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