OTTAWA – Six Canadians died in an attack on a luxury hotel in Burkina Faso, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday as the Quebec government confirmed all six were from the province.
Four jihadist attackers linked to al-Qaida were killed by Burkina Faso and French security forces hours after they stormed the Splendid Hotel and nearby Cappuccino Cafe, establishments popular with westerners in the West African country’s capital of Ouagadougou. At least 28 died in the attacks, from 18 different countries.
Trudeau issued a statement strongly condemning the attack that began late Friday and ended Saturday.
“On behalf of all Canadians, we offer our deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of all those killed and a speedy recovery to all those injured. We are deeply saddened by these senseless acts of violence on innocent civilians,” he said.
The statement did not give any information on the identities of the Canadians. The federal government is normally prohibited from providing such information due to privacy laws. But the Department of Global Affairs was able to confirm that no employees of the Canadian government were killed. A statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said Canada was offering consular services to the family.
A spokesperson for Quebec’s International Relations Minister Christine St-Pierre has confirmed the six were all from Quebec.
Three attackers were killed at the hotel and a fourth was killed when security forces cleared out a second hotel nearby. Two of the three attackers at the Splendid Hotel were identified as female, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said on national radio.
He said at least 126 hostages were freed, in part by French forces, who arrived overnight from neighbouring Mali to aid in the rescue.
The attack was launched by the same extremists behind a similar siege at an upscale hotel in Bamako, Mali in November that left 20 dead.
An al-Qaida affiliate known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility online as the attack was ongoing in downtown Ouagadougou at the 147-room hotel, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
Conservative leader Rona Ambrose extended her condolences to the families of the Canadians killed, but also called on the governing Liberals to take every measure to combat terrorism including rethinking plans to withdraw fighter jets from the fight against the Islamic State.
“These ongoing attacks are proof that decisive action is required to confront this threat, including fully supporting our coalition allies and keeping our CF-18s in the fight in Iraq and Syria,” Ambrose said in a statement.
Burkina Faso, a largely Muslim country, had for years been largely spared from the violence carried out by Islamic extremist groups who were abducting foreigners for ransom in neighbouring Mali and Niger. Then last April, a Romanian national was kidnapped in an attack that was the first of its kind in the country.
Canada and Burkina Faso have had a diplomatic relationship since 1962, according to the Department of Global Affairs, adding that Canada is the country’s largest foreign investor.
In addition to trading about $75 million in goods and importing another $48.5 million in the fiscal year 2013-2014, Canada provided $33 million for development assistance in Burkina Faso that same year.
Ogho Ikhalo of Plan Canada, an international development organization that has been working for decades with children in Burkina Faso, said all staff in the country were safe.
“We are saddened by the loss of lives, specifically Canadians, and also all the lives that were impacted by the situation,” she said. “From our organization’s standpoint, we want all parties in the dispute to end the conflict and to ensure that all children are safe.”
— With files from The Associated Press