Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said the brutal attack on a hotel in Burkina Faso’s capital was part of its ongoing operations to “cleanse” the region of non-Muslims.
In a statement released by its media arm, Al-Andalus Foundation for Media Production, AQIM vowed to “continue to seek to target the dens of the Crusaders, plunderers of our wealth and the aggressors on our sanctities and violators of our holy places.”
Twenty-eight people from several nations were killed in Friday night’s attack on the Splendid Hotel and Cappuccino restaurant in Ouagadougou, including Christian missionary Mike Riddering, who had lived in Burkina Faso since 2011. Riddering had gone to meet a pastor at the restaurant.
“My heart is so heavy and I am having trouble believing he is gone,” his wife, Amy, posted on Facebook. “Mike was an example in the way he lived and loved. God be glorified! Mike Riddering I will love you always! You left quite a legacy here. I can only imagine the adventures you are having now.”
Other victims included six Canadians, two former members of parliament from Switzerland, four Ukrainians in the same family including a 9-year-old girl, and a French service member. Two policemen and a soldier from Burkina Faso were among the dead.
AQIM’s claim of responsibility said the Splendid hotel, popular among diplomats, was one of “the most dangerous nests of global espionage-related matters in the west of the African continent.”
They described starting at the restaurant and heading toward their “main goal” of the hotel, where they killed “crusaders” of “different nationalities” in an hours-long operation.
“This blessed operation comes as part of a series of operations to cleanse the land of Islam and Muslims from the nests of global espionage-related matters and in revenge for our people in Central Africa, Mali and other Muslim countries to the east and west .. and a reminder to France and its allies.”
Burkino Faso is more than 60 percent Muslim and about 23 percent Catholic, with the remainder ascribing to traditional African religions or Protestant sects. Witnesses reported the gunmen speaking in an unfamiliar language.
The AQIM statement noted that they have “their eyes on the captive Jerusalem” — and they lauded car and knife attacks against Israelis.
The terror group also released photos of the gunmen.
A National Security Council spokesman issued a statement on the attack Sunday, commending “the bravery of the Burkinabé, French, and U.S. security personnel who responded to the situation and prevented even worse loss of life,” but did not mention al-Qaeda.
“Acts of terrorism will not stop efforts by brave Americans and others from around the world who travel far and wide to support governments, civil society groups, and others working to strengthen democracy, improve healthcare, and increase economic opportunities for all,” said NSC spokesman Ned Price.
“We stand with the Burkinabe people against terrorism and extremism,” said State Department press secretary John Kirby. “We will continue to support our partners in Africa to combat this shared and lethal threat.”