Who Is Responsible For The Burkina Faso Attacks? Two Women Were Involved In The Violent Incident Which Is Linked To Al Qaeda

A prominent hotel popular with many Westerners in Ouagadougou was attacked from Friday night to Saturday morning. The Splendid Hotel was reportedly rigged with explosives, detonating and destroying portions of the buildings as well as vehicles outside. A hail of gunfire also erupted, killing at least 23 people and placing dozens more under a dangerous hostage situation before authorities had responded to the incident. Who is responsible for the Burkina Faso attacks? Already, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed that they were behind the destruction. At least four people were on the ground in the capital city to carry out AQIM's plan, reportedly including two women.

The attack reportedly began around 7:30 p.m. on Friday night. Explosions were detonated at the Splendid as well as at the nearby Cappuccino Cafe. Damages include fires that were set on nearby vehicles, wrecking a handful of them as well as a lighted sign for the hotel. It's unclear how extensively either facility was damaged in the attacks, though it appears that what has been wrecked is substantial. An unnamed witness described the carnage to NBC News, which took a very real human toll on those in the area. They said:

They [AQIM] started to shoot at everyone. We dropped to the ground and as soon as anyone raised their heads they fired at them immediately. We had to play dead. They shook people by the foot to see if they were alive or not, and, if they were alive, they shot them. When they went upstairs they set the place on fire and left via the roof. The room was completely on fire and it was impossible to breathe.

It's rather rare that a terror attack be perpetrated by women and almost just as rare for the west African country to be attacked at all. Burkina Faso has seen its own political upheaval outside of AQIM's efforts. A September 2015 coup d'etat briefly divided the former French colony before national elections that brought President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré back into power. However, its brief unrest has little to do with what transpired on Friday night leading into Saturday morning. The attack in Burkina Faso appears to be more of a reactionary move from AQIM. The group reportedly used the violent incident as a marker of solidarity with Al-Mourabitoun, an Algerian militant extremist group led by former al Qaeda military commander Mokhtar Belmoktar. Both groups are al Qaeda affiliated.

Very little information has been released about the AQIM personnel who carried out the attack. The women who were reportedly involved join the likes of the "White Widow" Samantha Lewthwaite and alleged San Bernardino shooting gunwoman Tashfeen Malik as prominent jihadists who happen to be female. The Los Angeles Times reports that, though direct female involvement in violent extremist groups is still incredibly rare, such organizations may be drawing upon Western reactions and stereotypes of women to use in their favor and may therefore consider taking on more women attackers.