OUAGADOUGOU – The security forces raided a besieged hotel in Burkina Faso and freed 63 hostages early on Saturday – hours after terrorists struck in the middle of the night.
Of those – 33 have been hospitalized – Alpha Barry, the nation’s foreign minister, told CNN affiliate BFMTV. “Preliminary reports indicated that 20 people were killed, he said. Burkinabe forces scoured the rooms at the Splendid Hotel, looking for terrorists and any remaining hostages. Those rescued included a government minister, state media reported.
The nation’s forces – with logistical support from American and French troops – circled the hotel for several hours before they started rescuing hostages. Shortly after they stormed the hotel, gunshots that had raged for most of the day died down.
Al Qaeda claimed the responsibility for the Friday night attack in the capital of Ouagadougou. It mirrored another attack at a Mali hotel last year, which the militant group also said it conducted.
The attack in Burkina Faso appeared well planned, with a group of terrorists coming to the hotel during the day and mingling with guests, Barry said. When darkness fell, more attackers joined the group, he said. Before the hotel assault, the gunmen attacked the Cappuccino café across the street, which had about 100 people inside, according to the state broadcaster.
The gunmen then took off to the Splendid Hotel – a popular meeting spot for Western diplomats and business people. They fired and seized hostages. Witnesses said the attackers wore turbans and spoke a language not native to Burkina Faso, a former French colony.
As the siege continued, the US planned to fly a drone over the scene to provide surveillance, a defense official said. The US has about 75 military personnel in Burkina Faso, including 15 assigned to the embassy, according to the defense official. An additional 60 help train and advise the French military in the nation.