Oct 18, 2017 Last Updated 3:20 PM, Oct 16, 2017
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Seventeen people have been killed and eight wounded in a "terrorist attack" in the centre of the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, the government says.

Three gunmen opened fire on customers seated outside a restaurant, witnesses were quoted as saying.

Security forces killed three attackers, but some people are still trapped in the building, Communication Minister Remis Dandjinou says.

A jihadist attack on a cafe nearby left 30 people dead in January last year.

There are fears that the attack is the work of one of the affiliates of al-Qaeda that are active in the Sahel region, the BBC's Alex Duval Smith reports.

Mr Dandjinou said it was unclear how many assailants had been involved.

"They are confined to one part of the building they attacked. Security and elite forces are conducting an operation," he said on television.

The shooting began shortly after 21:00 (21:00 GMT) on Sunday on Ouagadougou's busy Kwame Nkrumah Avenue.

The Aziz Istanbul Restaurant appears to have been at the centre of the attack.

One eyewitness told the BBC: "I saw there were multiple trucks or jeeps driving through my street, with... local army/police officers with AK47s, deploying in front of my house.

"I heard a lot of shootings and then I was scared as hell and I went inside. I've been hearing quite a bit of shooting."

Police captain Guy Ye told Associated Press that the attackers had arrived on motorcycles and had begun shooting randomly.

A government statement quoted by the AFP news agency said: "The attack claimed 17 victims, their nationalities are yet to be confirmed, and eight injured."

A hospital in the city said that one of those killed was Turkish. Other unconfirmed reports said at least one of the dead was French.

The attack is similar to one in January 2016, when gunmen targeted the Splendid Hotel and the Cappuccino restaurant, only 200m further along Kwame Nkrumah Avenue from the scene of the latest attack.

More than 170 people were taken hostage and 30 were killed. The al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group said it carried out that attack.

Burkina Faso is part of the Sahel region, which includes Mali where Islamist groups have been active since 2012.

A multinational force run by African nations to target jihadist forces in the Sahel region has been established, but it will not be operational until later this year.

A man held hostage by al-Qaeda for nearly six years has said he thought it was a "joke" when he was freed.

Stephen McGown, 42, who has South African and UK nationality, was kidnapped from a hotel in Timbuktu, in Mali, along with two others in 2011.

He was released on 29 July following "efforts" from South Africa's government and other authorities.

Mr McGown told a press conference he had tried to keep up routines while in captivity to stay positive.

Speaking for the first time since his release, Mr McGown said he had been in a car with one of his captors when he was told he could leave.

He said he had assumed the man was "joking" and was still not convinced he was free after leaving the vehicle and getting into a second car that was waiting for him.

It was only later in the journey that it sunk in that he was free.

"It was quite a moment," he said.

"It's difficult to actually understand, comprehend, because there have been so many ups and downs over the last five-and-a-half years.

"You're not sure who you can and who you can't believe...

"You want to believe, but you're tired of really coming down with a bang after they tell you you should be going home soon."

Mr McGown said he did not believe his captors knew his nationality when they caught him but had wanted him to be from the UK because British captives were more valuable to them.

He said he had converted to Islam while captive and that he focused on remaining positive in captivity because he did not want to come home "a mess".

"I suppose you try and find routines, you try and find things that sort of give you an escapism from the situation, like doing a bit of exercise," he said.

"I was trying to make conversation with the mujahideen [people who engage in Jihad] to get along with the mujahideen. I didn't want to come out an angry person."

Mr McGown also paid tribute to his mother, who died in May, saying she was "an amazing lady and I can imagine the difficulties she went through".

He added that he did not know why he had been released.

Authorities have previously said that Mr McGown was released following efforts by the South African and Swedish governments and the NGO Gift of the Givers.

The South African government previously said no ransom was paid for Mr McGown's release.

 

 

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