Six people on a humanitarian mission from the Quebec City area, including four members of a single family, were among at least 28 victims of the al-Qaeda attack on a Burkina Faso hotel and cafe.
The group from Lac-Beauport, Que., were on a mission to work at schools and orphanages. The group included Yves Carrier, a retired teacher, his partner Gladys Chamberland, a provincial civil servant, their son Charlelie Carrier, 19, who was a student and Maude Carrier, 37, a teacher who was Ms. Chamberland’s daughter-in-law. Family friends Louis Chabot and Suzanne Bernier were the other two victims.
Camille Carrier, the mother of Maude Carrier, confirmed the identities of the victims. The families had been notified by the provincial police Saturday.
Ms. Carrier said the group had raised funds through the fall to finance repairs on schools and orphanages in the impoverished country.
“This wasn’t Yves’ first mission, he’s done this type of thing before,” Ms. Carrier said in an interview. “They did things like fix roofs and repaint blackboards. Who would want to kill people fixing blackboards?”
Ms. Chamberland, Ms. Carrier and Mr. Chabot were scheduled to return to Canada on the weekend.
Ms. Carrier said Yves Carrier was the driving force behind the mission. He organized dinners and other events to raise thousands of dollars in relief money.
The group was working with a religious congregation and the Centre Amitié de solidarité internationale de la région des Appalaches, based in Thetford Mines, Que., La Presse reported.
Founded in 1978, the group recruits Canadians for volunteer work overseas but mainly in South America.
Citizens of 18 different countries died in the attacks which took place in the Splendid Hotel and the Cappuccino Cafe, establishments that are popular with Westerners in the West African country’s capital of Ouagadougou.
At lest 33 were injured in the attacks which began Friday and continued into Saturday.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion and the Minister of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau, issued a statement on Saturday night saying the Canadian victims were improving the lives of vulnerable people. “Their efforts to create lasting ties between peoples while building a more just and peaceful world will never cease,” said the ministers' statement.
A missionary from the U.S. named Mike Riddering was also killed in the attack. The incursion took the lives of two French citizens, injuring another, said the government of France. Two people from Switzerland and one individual from the Netherlands died, according to the countries’ foreign ministries. Five people from Burkina Faso and one Dutch individual are also among the dead. Identities have not been revealed.
A nine-year-old Ukranian child was reported among the dead via Twitter by the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin.
The four attackers were killed by Burkina Faso and French security forces. Three of them died at the hotel and the fourth was killed when security forces cleared out a second hotel nearby called Hotel Yibi. Two of the three attackers at the Splendid Hotel were identified as female, Kabore said on national radio.
Kabore said at least 126 hostages were freed, in part by French forces, who arrived overnight from neighbouring Mali to aid in the rescue.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada condemns the attack.
“On behalf of all Canadians, we offer our deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of those killed and a speedy recovery to all those injured. We are deeply saddened by these senseless acts of violence on innocent civilians,” said the Prime Minister. “We have offered assistance to the Burkinabé authorities in their investigation of this terrible crime.”
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard offered support for the families of the dead and injured.
“Nothing can explain such gratuitous and cowardly acts,” Mr. Couillard said in a statement late Saturday. “These odious gestures remind us we can never compromise on our values of liberty, democracy and tolerance. For the victims and everyone else we will continue to defend them.”
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and foreign affairs critic Tony Clement issued a statement Saturday night offering their condolences to the families of the Canadians killed.
“On behalf of the Conservative caucus we send our condolences to the families of the 23 victims of this senseless act of terror, and in particular, are keeping the Canadian victims in our thoughts and prayers,” said Ms. Ambrose and Mr. Clement. “There is no doubt that Canada and Canadians are at risk in the face of this global threat against our values and our way of life. While we offer our sympathies, we also need to know that the Government of Canada is taking every measure to protect our citizens at home and abroad from the threat of terrorism.”
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.
As well, a couple from Perth, Australia who lived in the northern reaches of the country for 43 years were abducted in Baraboule near Mali and Niger, according to Burkina Fosa’s security ministry. The pair have been identified as Ken and Jocelyn Elliot on social media. They operated a hospital in Djibo. The Guardian reported the couple are being held captive by jihadists affiliated with al-Qaeda.
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.”
– With files from Les Perreaux in Montreal, The Canadian Press and The Associated PressReport Typo/Error