Ouagadougou, Jan 17: The Al-Qaeda fighters who stormed a popular hangout in Burkina Faso's capital at dinnertime came with a mission to kill as many people as possible, firing at people as they moved to a nearby hotel and setting the cafe ablaze, survivors and officials have said.
When the gunfire stopped yesterday after a more than 12-hour siege, at least 28 people had been slain in an unprecedented attack on this West African country long spared the jihadist violence experienced by its neighbours.
Like the extremist attacks from Paris to Jakarta, the assailants in the Friday evening attack targeted an area where people from different nationalities gathered to enjoy life.
Here in Ouagadougou, the victims had been grabbing a cold drink outside or staying at one of the capital's few upscale hotels.
In this city with a large aid worker presence, the attackers sought to shoot as many non-Muslims as possible, screaming Allahu akhbar (Arabic for God is great) as they entered.
An audio tape later released by the al-Qaida group claiming responsibility for the carnage was entitled: "A Message Signed with Blood and Body Parts."
Among the victims from 18 different countries were the wife and 5-year-old daughter of the Italian man who owns the Cappuccino Cafe, where at least 10 people died in a hail of gunfire and smoke after the attackers set the building ablaze before moving on to the Splendid Hotel nearby.
Some survivors cowered for hours on the roof or hid in the restaurant's bathroom to stay alive. Two French and two Swiss citizens were confirmed among the dead late yesterday by the two countries' foreign ministries.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement yesterday that six of the dead were Canadians. Authorities said the four known attackers all killed by security forces had come in a vehicle with plates from neighboring Niger.
At least two of them were women and one was of African descent. Witnesses said they wore the turbans often worn in the sand-swept countryside of the Sahel, and some spoke in French with an Arabic accent, suggesting some may have come from further north in Africa.