Saturday, January 16, 2016 10:33 am
The Interior minister in Burkina Faso said the siege laid on the Splendid Hotel since Friday night by Al Qaeda militants in Ouagadougou, is over.
But government troops are reportedly battling a second attack by the muslim militants in another hotel, Yidi Hotel.
Simon Compaore had previously said troops were searching nearby buildings to ensure no jihadists were in hiding and it was unclear whether the incident was related.
Gunmen stormed the four-star Splendid Hotel and a nearby café late on Friday night, detonating bombs that set surrounding cars on fire.
At least 20 people died, with 126 hostages, including the labour minister freed.
At least 10 bodies were found in the Cappuccino Café, next to Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, but there were fears the death toll would rise as security forces moved through the building.
“Three jihadists were killed. They were an Arab and two black Africans,” Mr Compaore said.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the assault, which was believed to be linked to its allied al-Murabitoun group.
In a message posted in Arabic on its “Muslim Africa” Telegram account, the terrorist group said fighters had “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”.
Security forces began an assault to reclaim the Splendid Hotel in the early hours of Saturday and entered its lobby, part of which was on fire, said a Reuters witness, who later saw them enter the hotels upper floors amid bursts of gunfire.
The hotel is frequented by Westerners, which may have made it a target for the militants.
The Friday evening attack was the first time militants have assaulted the capital of Burkina Faso and comes as a setback to efforts by African governments, France and the United States to prevent attacks that have destabilised the region.
It follows a raid on a luxury hotel in Mali last November in which two attackers killed 20 people, including citizens of Russia, China and the United States. There have been many attacks by militants in other countries in West Africa in recent years and the vast majority of those killed have been Africans.
Robert Sangare, director of Ouagadougou’s university hospital centre, said that among an initial 15 people brought to hospital some had bullet wounds while others had injuries from falls.
The assault began around 8.30 p.m. local time, and the attackers torched cars and fired in the air to drive people back from the building. There was an intense gun battle followed by relative quiet, partly because of security forces’ preparations for their bid to recapture the hotel.
“We had just opened and there were a few customers we started to serve when we heard gunshots. … There were three men shooting in the air,” said Vital Nounayon, a waiter at a restaurant across the street from the hotel.
“Lots of people left their cars and motorcycles and ran. (Attackers) set fire to the vehicles. They also fired on the Cappuccino cafe across from the hotel before setting it on fire,” he said, adding that the attackers wore turbans.
Medical personnel moved the wounded away from the front of the hotel and one civilian was shot dead as the assault began around midnight, a Reuters witness said.
Burkina Faso, a majority Muslim country, has undergone a democratic transition since October 2014 when longtime President Blaise Compaore was overthrown during mass protests.
Elite troops launched a failed coup last September, but the landlocked West African state has been largely spared violence by Islamist militants, unlike its neighbour Mali.
The attack presents a stiff test for President Roch Marc Kabore, who was elected in November as Burkina Faso’s first new leader in decades.