At least 20 dead as Al-Qaeda gunmen attack Burkina Faso hotel

In this grab taken from video by Associate Press Television, the scene of an attack on a hotel, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Friday, Jan. 15, 2016. Attackers struck an upscale hotel popular with Westerners in Burkina Faso's capital late Friday, fueling the recent political turmoil in the West African country. Three hours later, gunfire could still be heard as soldiers in an armored vehicle finally approached the area. (AP Television)


At least 20 people have been killed and another 15 wounded in an ongoing assault on a hotel in the capital of Burkina Faso on Friday night, a hospital chief told AFP.

“For the dead, we do not have a precise figure, but there are at least 20 dead,” said Robert Sangare, the head of Yalgado Ouedraogo hospital.

“We have had at least 15 wounded with bullet wounds and others who suffered injuries during the panic to escape.”

An Al-Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack on the four-star Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou. The “mujahideen brothers” of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb “broke into a restaurant of one of the biggest hotels in the capital of Burkina Faso, and are now entrenched and the clashes are continuing with the enemies of the religion,” the SITE Intelligence Group quoted an Arabic-language AQIM message as saying.

The French embassy called the assault a “terrorist attack” and the US Embassy in Ouagadougou tweeted: “We are closely following the situation downtown.”

Sporadic exchanges of fire between the attackers and security forces could be heard near the hotel in the city center, an AFP reporter said, in an attack that began around 7:45 p.m. GMT.

An Associated Press reporter near the scene said that several cars were also ablaze outside the 147-room Splendid Hotel in downtown Ouagadougou. The AP reporter saw an armored vehicle with security forces arrive nearly three hours after the attack.

A video uploaded to YouTube claimed to document the attack from near the hotel.

Witness Vital Nounagnon told the AP that he saw four men attack the hotel and neighboring Cappuccino Cafe about 7:30 p.m. Another witness who gave only his first name, Gilbert, said that when security forces first arrived, they turned around rather than confront the attackers.

“But we know that the gunmen won’t get out of the hotel alive,” he said. “Our country is not for jihadists or terrorists. They got it wrong.”

While Burkina Faso has largely been spared the violence wracked by Islamic extremist groups in Mali, a Romanian national was abducted last April. Jihadists have attacked hotels before in neighboring Mali, including a devastating attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in November that left 20 people dead.

Burkina Faso, a largely Muslim country, has been in turmoil since its longtime president was ousted in a popular uprising in late 2014. Last September members of a presidential guard launched a coup that lasted only about a week. The transitional government returned to power until Burkina Faso’s November election ushered in new leaders.

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