Ouagadougou, Jan 16: At least 26 people, many of them foreigners, were killed in an attack overnight on a top hotel in the capital of Burkina Faso, the latest country to be drawn into a regional jihadist battle against the West and its allies.
A total of 126 people were freed, 33 of them wounded, from the four-star Splendid hotel after security forces retook the facility and nearby Cappuccino restaurant today over 12 hours after the attack began, Interior Minister Simon Compaore told AFP.
The assault on the two venues, popular with Westerners and UN personnel, was crushed by midday but the police and military were still combing the area for other suspects, a security source said. Communications Minister Remi Dandjinou gave a provisional figure of 26 killed and announced three days of mourning.
The French foreign ministry gave a figure of 27 dead "and around 150 injured". Compaore said "three jihadists - an Arab and two black Africans - have been killed". The security source said four jihadists were killed, two of them women, and the victims were of 18 nationalities.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed the attack on behalf of an affiliate, saying the strike on the former French colony was in "revenge against France and the disbelieving West", according to a statement carried by US-based monitoring group SITE. AQIM said the gunmen were from the Al-Murabitoun group of notorious Algerian extremist Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
The attack will heighten concerns that jihadist groups are casting their net wider in search of targets in west Africa, two months after a siege at a luxury hotel in neighbouring Mali, where 20 people were killed, against mostly foreigners. AQIM and Al-Murabitoun jointly claimed that attack.
President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who took office just last month, a year after a popular uprising ousted longtime leader Blaise Compaore, called on his fellow citizens to show "courage". Burkina Faso has "never caved in under any circumstances and it's not going to start now," he said.