OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Suspected jihadists have attacked two communities in Burkina Faso's north while an international film festival takes place in the capital of the West African nation, authorities said Tuesday.
The Monday night attacks in Baraboule and Tongomayel injured at least one woman as assailants attacked several official buildings. They set fire to the police station in Tongomayel and shot at the police station, city hall and homes of local officials in Baraboule before retreating toward the border with Mali.
The Ansaru Islam militant group, which has links to the Ansar Dine extremist movement in Mali, said it staged the attacks. Ansaru Islam claimed responsibility for killing at least 12 gendarmes in December in Soum province. The leader of Ansaru Islam is a radical Burkina Faso preacher who earlier this year asked teachers to stop teaching in French and to teach the Quran in Arabic.
The international film festival known as Fespaco is currently underway in the capital of Ouagadougou, 230 kilometers (143 miles) to the south. Some 200 films will be screened during the weeklong festival, including 20 feature films competing for grand prize — the Stallion of Yennenga.
"I call on all festival goers to remain calm because security forces are doing their best to assure maximum security," said Marcel Pare, head of security for the 25th edition of the festival.
Armored vehicles and soldiers with machine guns were patrolling the main streets of Ouagadougou. Heavily armed security forces guarded hotels and restaurants and searched cars with bomb detectors.
"This (terrorism) scares me in general, not only in Burkina but around the world," said Pedro Pimenta, head of the Johannesburg International Film Festival. "We must develop conditions of justice and equality among people" to combat the threat and also not give in to such violence, he added.
Jorge Lange, a German publicist who has been attending Fespaco since 1987, agreed that extremism is an international problem.
"The situation isn't grave enough to prevent me from coming to Burkina. This is not a war zone, and we must not be intimidated by these people," he said.
Burkina Faso was long spared the jihadist unrest experienced by neighboring countries. However, extremists now have abducted foreigners in the north and in January 2016 launched a major terror attack on a cafe popular with foreigners that killed 30 people.