No fewer than 20 people were confirmed killed as gunmen on Friday night stormed a hotel popular with Westerners in the Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou, after detonating two car bombs outside, the BBC is reporting.
A combination of French forces and elite Burkinabe forces are still exchanging gunfire with the masked men who attacked the Splendid Hotel, taking an unknown number of hostages.
A security summit believed to be attended by some French nationals was being held at the hotel at the time of the attack.
But the French embassy in the country said it was unsure if any of its nationals were at the hotel at the time of the attack.
Burkina Faso’s communication minister, Remis Dandjinou, tweeted that 33 people were receiving treatment at a hospital. He added that the country’s minister of public works, Clement Sawadogo, was among those freed.
Witnesses said a part of the hotel is on fire and that they could hear sporadic exchanges of gunfire between the attackers and security forces inside and outside the four-star hotel, which is close to the city’s international airport.
Al-Qaeda affiliate in North Africa, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has claimed responsibility for the attack, which is similar to an attack in neighbouring Mali.
The same group took credit for killing 20 people in the Mali attack.
Witnesses, told CNN that the attackers wore turbans, were “light-skinned” and spoke a language not native to Burkina Faso.
United States defence official told CNN that France requested immediate support from U.S. soldiers stationed in the country and that a U.S. drone would be flown over the scene to provide surveillance, the official said.
Although one US soldier is said to be outside the hotel, the 75 US troop in the country are expected to only provide backup role in the operation trying to counter the attack.
Burkina Faso recently elected a new president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, after the ouster of its long-time leader, Blaise Compaore, who ruled the country for 27 years following a popular uprising.
The standoff is still ongoing. More details soon