Source: The Guardian
Burkina Faso and Mali have agreed to work together to counter the growing threat of Islamic militants in west Africa by sharing intelligence and conducting joint security patrols, following two deadly and well-coordinated attacks in the region.
The prime ministers of the two countries met on Sunday, two days after al-Qaida militants seized the Splendid hotel in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, opened fire on a restaurant and attacked another hotel nearby. The assault killed at least 29 people from at least 18 countries and left 50 other people injured.
The assault, claimed by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), follows a similar raid in November on a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital Bamako, which killed 20 people, including citizens of Russia, China and the US.
The exact details of the cooperation between Burkina Faso and Mali were not immediately clear, but the patrols and intelligence-sharing mark an intent by the two countries to prevent the spread of militancy as AQIM and others expand operations in the region beyond their usual reach.
Islamic militants have used northern Mali as a base for many years, but over the past year they have staged a number of attacks in other parts of the country. Burkina Faso’s authorities are now concerned that its long desert border with Mali could become a transit point for militants.
“There is a very strong political will on the part of the two states to combine our efforts to fight terrorism,” said Paul Kaba Thieba, Burkina Faso’s prime minister.
Thieba and his Malian counterpart Modibo Keita visited the outside of the Splendid hotel on Sunday, where bullet holes and a charred exterior offered reminders of Friday evening’s attack.
Tight security was in place around the hotel. Inside, Burkinabe and French security officials were conducting an investigation.
Security forces in Burkina Faso retook the 146-room hotel on Saturday after firefights with militants, at least three of whom were killed. Survivors said the militants targeted white victims at the hotel and at the restaurant, both of which were popular with westerners.
According to provisional figures from the Burkinabe government, among the dead were eight Burkinabes, four Canadians, three Ukrainians, two Portuguese, two French, two Swiss and one Dutch citizen. Seven bodies are yet to be identified. Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, on Saturday said six Canadians had been killed.
A nine-year-old Italian boy and his mother were killed in the assault on Cappuccino, the restaurant opposite the Splendid Hotel, Italy’s foreign ministry said on Sunday. The boy, Michel Santomenna, and his mother were the son and wife of the restaurant owner, Gaetano Santomenna. The woman was not Italian and has not yet been named.
“Italy will continue to work to ensure that the international community remains united and intensifies its efforts to fight the terrorist threat, which once again showed its most inhuman and cruel face by targeting innocent civilians,” Italy’s foreign ministry said.