Canadian victims of Burkina Faso attack were from Montreal
The two Canadians killed in a suspected terrorist attack in Burkina Faso have been identified as Tammy Chen, born in Montreal, and Bilel Diffalah, a volunteer for a Quebec-based anti-poverty group.
The incident happened late Sunday when suspected Islamic terrorists opened fire at a Turkish restaurant in the country's capital, killing 18 people in all.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland confirmed the deaths of the two Canadians earlier in the day.
"It is with very great sorrow that I can confirm the deaths of two Canadians in yesterday's attack in Burkina Faso," Freeland said.
"The heartfelt condolences of our government go out to the loved ones of those targeted and the victims of this tragic attack. Canadian consular officials are working hard to provide assistance to their loved ones."
Chen was born and raised in Montreal and moved to Toronto several years ago to work as a teacher.
The Toronto District School Board called Chen "the victim of a senseless act of violence" and said in a statement that she left in 2013 to pursue her PhD at the University of Cambridge.
"Tammy is being remembered as a very passionate, charismatic and diligent teacher by her colleagues," the board said, adding "she was always willing to go the extra mile to help students."
Chen holds degrees from McGill University and Queen's University and was the president and co-founder of a Canadian NGO called Bright Futures Burkina Faso, educating at-risk youth. She was working on her PhD.
Chen was newly married and five months pregnant; she was with her Senegalese-born husband in the restaurant where they met when the attack occurred.
Montreal-based non-governmental organization CECI said Diffalah volunteered with the NGO as an adviser for hygiene and biosecurity and had been there since November, planning for a one-year stint.
"He was very dedicated to his work. He was a vet and had a passion for the quality control of poultry and livestock," said the director of CECI, Odette McCarthy.
"He was working very closely with his partner to find procedures to improve the health of poultry and the poultry industry in Burkina Faso, and he was a very sociable person. I was struck by his ability to engage with the local people he was working with and the other volunteers."
CECI has been operating in Burkina Faso since 1985.
McCarthy said CECI is closely monitoring the situation there.
“Our main priority after hearing of these kinds of attacks is ensuring the safety of our volunteers and staff, and to making sure the guidelines we have in place are adjusted appropriately,” she said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement Tuesday condemning the attacks, saying Canada would work with the international community to fight terrorism.
"People should not have to live in fear over their safety and security, no matter where they call home or where they travel," he said.
No group has claimed responsibility.
Local authorities say other foreigners killed include two Kuwaitis and one person each from France, Senegal, Nigeria, Lebanon and Turkey.
Several Burkina Faso citizens were also killed and authorities said other victims had not yet been identified.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the violence, which continued into the early hours Monday.
At least three members of Burkina Faso's security forces were wounded during the assault, said Capt. Guy Ye, spokesman of the security forces.
The assailants arrived at the restaurant on motorcycles and then began shooting randomly at the crowds dining Sunday evening, he said. Security forces arrived at the scene with armoured vehicles after reports of shots fired near Aziz Istanbul.
The attack brought back painful memories of the January 2016 attack at another cafe that left 30 people dead, including six Quebecers.
Burkina Faso, a landlocked nation in West Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the world. It shares a northern border with Mali, which has long battled Islamic extremists.