Explosions, Gunfire in Burkina Faso

Explosions, Gunfire in Burkina Faso

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) -- Gunfire and explosions rocked Burkina Faso's capital Friday, by the army headquarters and in a neighborhood that houses embassies, the offices of the prime minister and the United Nations.

Plumes of black smoke could be seen above the army offices in western Ouagadougou where police and gendarmerie responded. Barricades were erected to keep people from that area and from the French Embassy and the prime minister's office in the eastern part of the city center where gunfire and smoke were reported.

Witnesses told The Associated Press that they saw five attackers in a pickup truck heading toward the French Embassy. They said the attackers left the truck, set fire to the embassy and started shooting.

Gunfire was heard across Ouagadougou. Security forces were seen intervening.

France's foreign affairs ministry published a message on their website warning of gunfire in the capital, and said that security forces are now intervening and enhanced security measures could be taken by authorities. It recommended people stay off the streets and remain in a safe place.

Burkina Faso's police said the defense and security forces are responding to attacks around the Prime Minister's office and the United Nations.

Ouagadougou has been attacked by extremists targeting foreigners at least twice in the past few years.

In August, extremists opened fire as patrons dined on a Sunday night at the Aziz Istanbul restaurant, killing at least 18 people, including children with families. That attack brought back painful memories of the January 2016 attack at another cafe popular with foreigners in the capital that killed 30 people.

Islamic extremist threats also moved into new parts of Burkina Faso earlier this month with an attack by 10 people in an eastern town that killed an officer and wounded two others. Increased attacks staged at the border with Mali have forced thousands to flee over the past year.

Burkina Faso's capital has also seen violence over politics in the past. This week a trial began, and was quickly suspended, for 84 people accused of masterminding a 2015 attempted coup. People cheered the two head former presidential aides who are among those facing the military tribunal, and former soldiers in the presidential guard are among the others accused.