More than 1,000 mourners, including leading politicians, have taken part in a service at Sion Cathedral for the two Swiss victims of a terrorist attack in Burkina Faso.
The former director of Switzerland’s Post Office, Jean-Noël Rey, and a well-known Social Democratic politician also from the canton of Valais, Georgie Lamon, were killed by gunmen who opened fire on a hotel and café popular with westerners in the Burkina Fasoexternal link capital, Ouagadougou, on January 15. In all, 29 people died.
Leading the service on Friday, the Bishop of Sion, Jean-Marie Lovey, spoke out against “senseless violence” that had the power to shake people’s faith in God and humankind.
Among those attending were Interior Minister Alain Berset, as well as former cabinet ministers Pascal Couchepin, René Felber, Micheline Calmy-Rey and Ruth Dreifuss.
The president of the Valais government, Jacques Melly, spoke of how Rey, also a former House of Representatives parliamentarian, and Lamon were in Burkina Faso for humanitarian reasons. “One doesn’t kill those who come to help,” he said.
Komi Tahirou from the Association Burkina Faso in Switzerland thanked the deceased men for their efforts. Both men had been in the country since the beginning of the year to open a school canteen through Rey’s charitable development group, the Yelen Association.
The jihadist attack targeted the Splendid Hotel and the nearby Cappuccino Cafe, which was popular with westerners and French soldiers fighting the jihadists in the Sahel. The jihadist fighters stormed the restaurant and hotel at dinnertime, apparently intent on killing as many people as possible. The gunfire ended after a more than 12-hour siege.
Rey, 66, and Lamon, 82, were killed at the restaurant, where the attackers sprayed gunfire and set the building on fire. Burkina Faso’s minister of interior security, Simon Compaoré, said at least 29 people were killed and 30 others injured in an attack that was unusual for the West African country.
The bodies of three jihadist men were identified, none of them older than their mid-twenties, said Compaoré, who also reported that 176 people were rescued. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the group Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which also carried out the November attack in Mali’s capital, Bamako, where 170 hostages were taken and 20 of them killed at the Radisson Blu hotel.