As Al Qaeda’s official branch in North Africa, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was undertaking the hotel siege in the capital city of the Western African country Burkina Faso, the jihadist group also concurrently executed two attacks in the northern part of the country.
Near the town of Tin Akoff, which sits close to the Malian border, two gendarmes were killed by suspected jihadists when 20 gunmen stormed a nearby village yesterday. Additionally, an Australian couple was kidnapped today by suspected jihadists near the Burkina Faso town of Baraboule, also near the Malian border.
A spokesman for Ansar Dine – a Tuareg front group for AQIM in Mali – said that AQIM’s Sahara Emirate was responsible for the kidnapping, according to AFP. The Sahara Emirate is led by Abu Yahya al Hammam and has a long history of taking hostages in the Sahara and Sahel. For example, the group is holding Swede Johan Gustofsson and South African Stephen McGowan in northern Mali. The two were held with Dutch citizen Sjaak Rijke, who was freed last year in a French special forces raid.
Additionally, a Swiss woman, Beatrice Stockly, was kidnapped from her home on Jan. 8, 2016 by suspected jihadists. She was briefly held by jihadists in 2012 before being released. Al Murabitoon, which has since merged into AQIM, kidnapped a Romanian from a manganese mine in northern Burkina Faso.
AQIM has a history of taking Western hostages.
AQIM held French hostage Serge Lazarevic for three years before being released. Lazarevic was seized in 2011 in Mali by AQIM forces there. He was kidnapped along with another French national, Philippe Verdon, who was then killed in 2013 by AQIM in Mali. Lazarevic was released in 2014 in exchange for seven AQIM militants.
In 2010, Michel Germaneau, a French hostage held by AQIM, died while in captivity. And in 2013, four French hostages were released by AQIM after being held for three years; it is speculated that a ransom of 20 million Euros was paid to free them.
Before that, AQIM was responsible for the kidnapping of Spanish nationals in Mauritania and an Italian and French national in Mali in 2009, as well as many more abductions throughout North Africa.