Explosion and fire at Burkina Faso army HQ - Reuters witness

Explosion and fire at Burkina Faso army HQ - Reuters witness”

Gunfire and an explosion have been heard near the army headquarters and the French embassy in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou.

On August 13 a year ago, two assailants opened fire on a restaurant on Ouagadougou's main avenue, killing 19 people and wounded 21.

"Stay indoors. Not clear at this stage which sites targetted", the embassy said in a second Facebook message.

Jean Bosco Kienou, director general of Burkina Faso's police, and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe both called it a terrorist attack.

The neighborhood also houses other embassies, the prime minister's office and United Nations offices.

A separate government statement said four gunmen had been "neutralised" at the French embassy on Friday but there was no immediate word on civilian casualties.

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"The situation is under control", said French envoy Jean-Yves Le Diane, quoted by France Press.

Security personnel take cover as smoke billows from The Institute Francais in Ouagadougou on March 2, 2018, as the capital of Burkina Faso came under multiple attacks targeting the French embassy, the French cultural center and the country's military headquarters.

Militants have gained a stronger foothold in Africa's vast Sahel region in the last few years, launching attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Niger. In January 2016, Islamic militants attacked another cafe popular with foreigners in the capital, killing 30 people. Burkina Faso's Communications Minister Remy Danjuinou said four militants were killed in the gunfight, AP reported. But the terror threat in Burkina Faso is increasingly homegrown, experts say.

However, it is unclear how many were the perpetrators of the attack. Increased attacks staged at the border with Mali have forced thousands to flee over the past year.

Among his objectives has been ending the use of French, the former colonizer's language, in regional schools.

France which has some 4,000 troops in the region as part of a counter-terrorism force, has bemoaned that the militants have scored military and symbolic victories in West Africa while the G5 force has struggled to win financing and become operational.

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