A former Burkina Faso soldier may have participated in Friday’s simultaneous attacks by al Qaeda-linked extremists on the army headquarters and heavily-guarded French Embassy in the capital, Ouagadougou.
The simultaneous attacks resulted in the deaths of nine jihadists and seven soldiers at the army headquarters in Ouagadougou. One of the killed soldiers is believed to have been fired from the army after a 2011 mutiny and may actually have been an assailant, a person close to the investigation told the Associated Press.
Many of the attackers were wearing army uniforms, according to witnesses, and some were from Burkina Faso, including two men arrested in connection with the attack, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the press.
The government has launched an investigation into the brazen attacks and they will be assisted by a group of French investigators, who arrived in Ouagadougou on Saturday.
The attack on the army headquarter was aimed at a conference room, narrowly missing a meeting of top officers, which would have “beheaded” the military leadership, according to Security Minister Clement Sawadogo.
An al Qaeda-linked group based in Mali claimed responsibility Saturday for the dual attacks.
Militant group Jama Nusrat ul-Islam wa Al-Muslimin (JSIM) issued a message late Saturday saying it was behind the attacks, according to the Mauritanian news agency Alakhbar, which often carries claims of responsibility by jihadi groups for attacks in West Africa.
Key suspected figure arrested
A suspected key figure, who could be “one of the brains” behind the attacks, has been arrested, a government source told the AFP Sunday.
There were “very strong suspicions” that “army infiltrators” had passed information to the assailants for the coordinated attacks, according to the source.
The arrested suspect’s nationality was not revealed. A second man was also arrested and questioned, but is of lesser interest to investigators, the source said.
Officials haven’t commented yet on the claim of responsibility, but Burkina Faso’s minister of communications on Saturday said that the assailants could be members of a “sleeping jihadist cell” that has been in Ouagadougou for some time.