Burkina Faso hostage siege over: 126 freed, at least 23 killed in Islamist attack
Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré has announced that the “partial death toll” from the attack has reached 23.
The French ambassador to Burkina Faso, Gilles Thibault, says that the number of dead has reached 27.
Those killed in the attack included people of 18 different nationalities, Interior Minister Compaore said.
Interior Minister Simon Compaore told AFP that altogether 126 people have been rescued from the Splendid hotel, with three attackers reportedly killed in Splendid hotel.
"Three jihadists were killed. They were an Arab and two black Africans," Compaore told Reuters.
The fourth Al-Qaeda militant taking part in the assault has been killed in the Hotel Yibi, which is situated not far from the Splendid hotel, Reuters reports, citing an unnamed gendarme officer.
The source also said there were two women among the four assailants killed.
The upper floors of the Splendid hotel seized by the terrorists have been rigged with explosive, a senior gendarme officer told Reuters.
“What's making our job more difficult is that they've rigged the access to the upper floors,” the Burkinabe officer said, on condition of anonymity on Saturday.
Terrorist group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to SITE Intelligence Group.
The attackers broke into a restaurant of one of the biggest hotels in the capital of Burkina Faso, AP cited a message posted in Arabic on the militants' “Muslim Africa'” Telegram account as saying.
Two groups of security forces, reportedly local law enforcement and French special service personnel, were taking part in the assault to neutralize the terrorists inside the hotel. Both groups entered the hotel through lobby partly set on fire.
American and French soldiers were seen gathering on the scene before the counter-assault began, according to local reporters who tweeted out pictures of special forces by the hotel.
"Sabre Room Service..." ...French SpecOps taking order before retaking Splendid Hotel - Ouagadougou pic.twitter.com/ml0lVM0I1Z— Harry Boone (@towersight) January 16, 2016
There are some 75 American troops in Burkina Faso, of them 15 are assigned to the US embassy and about 60 have been assisting the French military to handle the hostage crisis, a source told AP. The US is providing the French forces in Burkina Faso with surveillance and reconnaissance data.
Internal Affairs Minister Simon Compaore said at least 10 bodies have been found inside the Cappuccino Cafe, a restaurant located next to the Splendid Hotel.
The director of the Yalgado Ouedraogo hospital, Robert Sangare, has told AFP that at least 20 people have been killed and 15 others injured in the attack.
“For the dead, we do not have a precise figure, but there are at least 20 dead,” Sangare said. “We have had at least 15 wounded with bullet wounds and others who suffered injuries during the panic to escape.”
The terrorists attacking the hotel spoke by phone with AQIM, asserting the “fall of many dead crusaders,” according to SITE.
The gunmen first attacked Cappuccino Cafe, a restaurant located across the street from the hotel and owned by a Ukrainian national, Russia’s Honorary Council in Burkina Faso, Anna Rachina-Kulibali, told TASS.
Rachina said that there are foreign nationals among the dead, adding that it is still unknown whether any of the victims are Russian.
“There are foreigners [among the dead], possibly Europeans and locals.”
The shooting was initiated by three armed and turbaned men, an AFP journalist reported from the scene. A car was on fire outside the Splendid Hotel, he added. The property is frequently used by Westerners and UN agency staff.
In December, AQIM’s senior member called on the extremist group to wage war on several countries, including Burkina Faso.
Burkina Faso: des tirs et des explosions entendus au Splendid, un hôtel fréquenté par les Occidentaux à Ouagadougou. pic.twitter.com/klM8cRTAA0— Visactu (@visactu) January 15, 2016
Ouagadougou imposed a curfew from 2300 GMT to 0600 GMT, France’s ambassador to the country, Gilles Thibault, said on his Twitter account. The embassy has opened a crisis unit for French nationals. There are over 3,500 French citizens currently residing in Burkina Faso.
A social media user from the West African country reported that a “red level” alert has been announced in the city, with an “ongoing hostage taking in Ouagadougou, deaths, wounded [and] fire.”
The user said that the city center was an “insecure area” and advised the public not to go there and “warn relatives.”
The attack coincides with recent Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) related attacks in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, in which at least 7 people were killed, and another at an Egyptian hotel.
Last November, jihadists carried out a similar attack in Burkina Faso’s neighboring Mali, killing at least 19 in a 190-room Radisson hotel in the capital city of Bamako.
US strongly condemns attack in Ouagadougou #BurkinaFaso. We extend our deepest condolences to families of victims of this senseless assault.— A/SThomas-Greenfield (@StateAfrica) January 16, 2016
The domestic situation in Burkina Faso has been tense since October 2014, when veteran President Blaise Compaore was overthrown in a five-day protest.