Leila Alaoui, the 33-year-old French-Moroccan photographer, died on Monday, January 18 as a result of injuries sustained during Friday’s al-Qaeda terrorist attack in Burkina Faso hotel, along with her driver, Mahamadi Ouédraogo, a father of four.
Alaoui was working on assignment on women’s rights issues for Amnesty International. The human rights organisation and French culture and communications minister Fleur Pellerin both confirmed her death. Yves Traore, Director of Amnesty International Burkina Faso, paid tribute to them both.
“Leila was an extraordinary young woman,” Traore said of Alaoui. “We wanted to work with her because of her talent, and her passion for helping women, girls and marginalised people tell their own stories and claim their rights. As a strong woman herself, she wanted to show women as authors of their own destiny, not as victims. We are all devastated by her loss.”
Talking of Alaoui’s driver Mahamadi Ouédraogo, Traore said: “Mahamadi was a dedicated, helpful and caring colleague. His warm smile and discretion were a feature of the many Amnesty missions that he accompanied us on over the past seven years. He did more than drive us safely everywhere; he also joined in to help out during mission activities. His death is a huge loss to us all.”
Leila was working on assignment for Amnesty International, the celebrated photographer was fatally injured during an al-Qaeda attack on an international hotel in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso, on Friday.
Alaoui’s death raises the death toll to 30, of 18 separate nationalities. French and Burkinabe armed forces were forced to storm the hotel and restaurant after the gunmen took 126 people as hostages – they were later freed. The attack marks the biggest terrorist incident in Burkina Faso’s history, and is a major escalation of Islamist militancy in West Africa.
Alaoui and Ouédraogo were parked outside the Cappuccino cafe, opposite the Splendid Hotel – both popular venues for travellers – when the attack occurred. Both were shot multiple times at close range.
Her mother, Christine Alaoui, said her daughter had suffered gunshot wounds to her lung, abdomen, arm, leg and kidney. Alaoui underwent a six-hour operation over the weekend at a local hospital and was expected to be flown back to France soon, but she succumbed to her injuries on Monday night after suffering a heart attack.
Born in Paris in 1982, Alaoui studied photography at City University of New York (CUNY). She lived between her native Morocco and Beirut, Lebanon.