Ten held in Burkina over West Africa jihadist attacks

Ouagadougou (AFP) - Authorities in Burkina Faso have arrested 10 people over a jihadist attack on a hotel and cafe in the capital and a separate rampage at a resort in neighbouring Ivory Coast, the interior minister said Thursday.

Three of those being held are suspected of involvement in both the January 15 attack on the Splendid Hotel and Cappuccino cafe in Burkina's capital Ouagadougou and the bloodshed at the Grand Bassam resort across the border on March 13, minister Simon Compaore said.

Thirty people were killed when gunmen stormed the four-star hotel and nearby cafe in Ouagadougou, while 19 were killed when gunman opened fire on a beach and bars in Grand Bassam.

The Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group behind a string of attacks in west Africa in recent years claimed responsibility for the two strikes, along with a bloody hostage-taking at a top hotel in Mali in November, in which 20 people were killed.

In both cases, the jihadists targeted venues popular with Westerners.

Compaore said the top three suspects have also been linked to an attack in August 2015 on police in the northern Burkina town of Oursi, near the borders with Mali and Niger. There were no fatalities in that incident.

One of the three "left Mali, did Niger, Burkina and then continued onto Ivory Coast," Compaore said.

A total of 49 people of "various nationalities" were questioned over the various attacks, 39 of whom were later released for lack of evidence, Compaore said.

A foreign woman, whose brother acted as driver for the jihadists in both Ouagadougou and Grand Bassam was among those arrested.

Six others including the driver, all of whom are known to the intelligence services, are still being sought in connection with the Ouagadougou attack, the minister added.

Compaore said the suspects were apprehended on the basis of information supplied by his services as well as those in Ivory Coast, Mali and Niger -- neighbours of Burkina Faso -- and Algeria, which has decades of experience fighting Islamist radicals.

"Each country has a database of dangerous terrorist elements and in exchanging (information), we cross-checked and (found) that there were names that came up both in Ivory Coast and here over the attacks in Grand Bassam, on the Cappuccino (cafe) and Splendid Hotel," he said.

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