Six Canadians died in an attack on a luxury hotel in Burkina Faso, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday, as the Quebec government confirmed all six were from the province.
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Four jihadist attackers linked to al-Qaeda were killed by Burkina Faso and French security forces hours after they stormed the Splendid Hotel and nearby Cappuccino Café, establishments popular with westerners in the West African country's capital of Ouagadougou. At least 28 died in the attacks, from 18 different countries.
Trudeau issued a statement strongly condemning the attack that began late Friday and ended Saturday.
"On behalf of all Canadians, we offer our deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of all those killed and a speedy recovery to all those injured. We are deeply saddened by these senseless acts of violence on innocent civilians," he said.
Another statement released by Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion identified the Canadians as "aid workers and volunteers."
"Canada condemns in the strongest terms any act that threatens the safety of civilians, including those who strive to improve the lives of vulnerable people around the world," the statement read. "Working in challenging and dangerous situations, their efforts to create lasting ties between peoples while building a more just and peaceful world will never cease."
A spokesperson for Quebec's International Relations Minister Christine St-Pierre confirmed all six were from Quebec. St-Pierre also condemned the attacks and offered condolences to the relatives of the victims.
"Nothing can explain such acts of cowardice," she said in a statement written in French. "On behalf of the Quebec people, I offer my deepest condolences to the families and those close to the victims, and wish a speedy recovery to the injured. Our thoughts are with you during these difficult times."
Three attackers were killed at the hotel and a fourth was killed when security forces cleared out a second hotel nearby. Two of the three attackers at the Splendid Hotel were identified as female, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said on national radio.
He said at least 126 hostages were freed, in part by French forces, who arrived overnight from neighbouring Mali to aid in the rescue.
One of the victims was identified as American missionary Michael Riddering, a 45-year-old who died in the Cappuccino Café, where he was to meet a group that was going to volunteer at the orphanage and women's crisis centre he ran with his wife.
The attack was launched by the same extremists behind a similar siege at an upscale hotel in Bamako, Mali in November that left 20 dead.
An al-Qaeda affiliate known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility online as the attack was ongoing in downtown Ouagadougou at the 147-room hotel, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
Burkina Faso, a largely Muslim country, had for years been largely spared from the violence carried out by Islamic extremist groups who were abducting foreigners for ransom in neighbouring Mali and Niger. Then last April, a Romanian national was kidnapped in an attack that was the first of its kind in the country.
Canada and Burkina Faso have had a diplomatic relationship since 1962, according to the Department of Global Affairs, adding that Canada is the country's largest foreign investor.
In addition to trading about $75 million in goods and importing another $48.5 million in the fiscal year 2013-2014, Canada provided $33 million for development assistance in Burkina Faso that same year.
Ogho Ikhalo, of Plan Canada, an international development organization that has been working for decades with children in Burkina Faso, said all staff in the country were safe.
"We are saddened by the loss of lives, specifically Canadians, and also all the lives that were impacted by the situation," she said. "From our organization's standpoint, we want all parties in the dispute to end the conflict and to ensure that all children are safe."