Burkina Faso begins 3 days of mourning after al-Qaida attack

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Ouagadougou, Jan 18: Burkina Faso has begun three days of national mourning and the president said security would be stepped up in the capital and the country's borders after al-Qaida militants killed at least 28 people in an attack on a hotel and cafe popular with foreigners.

In a message to the nation, 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.

Burkina Faso

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

The national mourning began yesterday, a day after Burkinabe and French forces ended a more than 12-hour siege at the upscale Splendid Hotel in downtown Ouagadougou. When the gunfire and explosions finally stopped, authorities said 18 were killed in the hotel and 10 were 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, 9, was killed, according to the Italian foreign ministry.

Italy's foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, called the child's death "a horrendous crime," in a tweet which also expressed sympathy with the boy's father. The toll also 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 US, the Netherlands, 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.

White House National Security Council Spokesperson Ned Price said Riddering "had devoted his life to working with the Burkinabe people" in a statement strongly condemning the recent terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso and mourning those killed "in these senseless acts of violence." 

AP

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