Mali-based al Qaeda claims responsibility for Burkina Faso attack

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A Mali-based al Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility on Saturday for attacks in neighbouring Burkina Faso that left 16 people dead, including eight gunmen, at the army headquarters and French embassy, Mauritanian news agency Alakhbar reported.

Eighty others were wounded in the coordinated attacks in the capital Ouagadougou, which followed two other major assaults there in the past two years.

The group, Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), often uses Alakhbar and other Mauritanian news agencies to claim responsibility for strikes against civilian and military targets across West Africa’s Sahel region.

Alakhbar, citing a message from the group, reported that the attacks were carried out in response to the killing of one of JNIM’s leaders, Mohamed Hacen al-Ancari, in a recent raid by French forces.

France intervened in Mali in 2013 to drive back Islamist militants who had seized the country’s desert north. It retains about 4,000 troops deployed across its former colonies in the arid Sahel region as part of the anti-terror Operation Barkhane and has aggressively gone after militant group leaders.

Previous attacks in Ouagadougou and near Burkina Faso’s porous border with Mali were also conducted by allies of al Qaeda in reprisal for Burkina Faso’s participation in a regional fight against Islamist militants.