The Security forces in Burkina Faso launched a dynamic attack against the gunmen who stormed the Splendid Hotel in the nation’s capital, Ouagadougou, reported the state-owned Radiodiffusion-Télévision du Burkina (RTB) on early Saturday.
RTB reported that there was intense gunfire that lasted for about 40 minutes in the direction of the hotel. It was also reported that about 10 vehicles were on fire, which were parked near the 147-room, luxury hotel in Ouagadougou. RTB had also reported that the Security Forces had freed about 15 hostages, which also included the country’s Public Sector Minister.
A fire raged at the entrance of the four-star Splendid Hotel, and screams could be heard coming from inside the hotel. It has not been revealed how many hostages might be remaining in the hotel.
A nearby, busy Cappuccino restaurant had also been targeted. A Cappuccino staff member, said over telephone that several people had been killed at the restaurant, but was unable to give an exact toll.
The country’s foreign minister, Alpha Barry, had earlier told Reuters that Special Forces made up of Burkinabe security, with support from French Special Forces and US intelligence had fortified a boundary around the hotel.
Although Islamist groups have waged attacks across the region, i.e., Al-Shabab in Somalia , the Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the Al-Qaeda in Mali, Burkina Faso was relatively free of extremist violence.
This assault is the first to hit Burkina Faso’s capital city, Ouagadougou.
Friday’s assault on the Splendid Hotel and Café, a place that is frequented by westerners, diplomats and upper class Burkinabe’s, has intensified the anxiety concerning the potential of Islamist extremists to strike civilian targets in Burkina Faso.
Al Qaeda group claims responsibility.
The Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the assault, according to the Mauritania-based Al Akhbar news agency. CNN could not independently confirm that claim.
The Ouagadougou attack comes less than two months after a jihadist hostage siege at the luxury Radisson Blu Hotel in the Malian capital Bamako in November, in which 20 people died including 14 foreigners. This assault had similarities to the November hotel attack in nearby Mali, according to one reported witness account.
Witnesses have also said that the attackers were light-skinned and wore turbans. They also spoke a language that was not native to Burkina Faso.
A survivor told Robert Sangare, a local hospital director, that the number of dead could be anywhere close to 20, according to the Associated Press. There were no specifics about the number of dead people, but several bodies were seen lying outside the hotel, the gendarmerie said, according to the country’s state broadcaster, RTB.
About 63 hostages were freed that included 33 wounded after security forces launched an assault to free them, the Communications Minister Remis Dandjinou told AFP.
The U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou said via Twitter that it is monitoring the situation, and urged U.S. citizens to avoid downtown Ouagadougou. There was also no indication as to whether there were any Americans inside the hotel. In a tweet,
A French Embassy spokesperson told CNN the embassy did not know whether any French nationals were inside the hotel at the time of the attack.
The attempt to retake the hotel was reported on Twitter by Gilles Thibault, the French ambassador to Burkina Faso. Mr. Thibault also added that an Air France flight from Paris to Ouagadougou was diverted on Friday night to Niamey, Niger.
Both the United States and the French consider Burkina Faso a key collaborator in the war against violent Islamist radicals in West Africa. The U.S. military also has over 60 troops in the country who work with the French troops on security assistance.
Burkina Faso is surrounded by six countries – Niger to the east, Mali to the north, Benin to the southeast, Ghana to the southwest, and Togo and Ghana to the south. Ouagadougou is its capital. Formerly called the Republic of Upper Volta, it was established in 1958 as a self-governing colony under France. In 1984, Thomas Sankara, the then President renamed the country as Burkina Faso. The residents of Burkina Faso came to be known as Burkinabé. French was declared as the official language of government and business. Burkina Faso’s main produce is gold and cotton. It is diverse in terms of religion, and has a population of about 60 per cent Muslim, according to Government figures.
Burkina Faso has been plagued far more by domestic political problems than extremism. During early September 2015, the Regiment of Presidential Security (RSP) toppled Burkina Faso’s president and prime minister by staging a military coup, briefly seizing power. It then declared the National Council for Democracy as the new national government.
However, on 24 September 2015, with continuing pressure from the African Union, ECOWAS, and the armed forces, the military junta stepped down, and Michel Kafando was reinstated as Acting President. In November, Burkina Faso elected a new president after nearly thirty years of dictatorial rule, followed by a civil revolt. Roch Marc Christian Kabore, a former prime minister of the West African nation won more than 50% of the votes. .