Burkina Faso President Roch Kabore urged the public Saturday to cooperate more closely with the country’s military, one day after an armed group carried out coordinated attacks on France's embassy and cultural center and on the West African country's military headquarters in the capital of Ouagadougou.
“I would like to encourage the population to reinforce collaboration with our defense and security forces in our common fight against terrorism," he said in a speech on national television.
The Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) — also known as Jama'a Nusrat ul-Islam wa'al- Muslimin (JNIM) in Arabic — on Saturday claimed responsibility for the attacks in a message cited by Mauritania's Al-Akhbar news agency.
The group, a fusion of three Malian jihadist groups with previous al-Qaida links, have been behind several high-profile attacks against civilian and military forces since forming last year.
The government said eight soldiers were killed, as well as eight assailants — four at the embassy and four at military headquarters. Eighty others were wounded.
At the start of the Friday attacks, witnesses said, armed men got out of a car and opened fire on passers-by before heading to the embassy. An explosion occurred at about the same time near the military headquarters and the French cultural center about a kilometer from the embassy attack, witnesses said.
Aristide Voundi, a milkman who was near the army headquarters when the attack occurred, told VOA, "I heard a loud noise in that area, and I saw black smoke. My ears were buzzing. I got scared. I took off, and I saw people running. It was panic in the city."
Homemaker Sanou Safiatou said she was in the city when she heard an explosion, which triggered a scramble for shelter. "We were really afraid," and "the traffic was dense," she said. "It was chaos."
A prosecutor in Paris said an investigation had been launched into "attempted murder in relation to a terrorist enterprise."
The city has been attacked at least twice in the past few years by Islamic extremists targeting foreigners.
Burkina Faso is among a number of vulnerable countries in the southern Sahara region that are fighting jihadist groups.
VOA French to Africa service's Bagassi Koura contributed to this report.