Terror stalks Burkina Faso
Four gunmen killed, hostages freed as troops storm one hotel while terrorists move into another
As troops from Burkina Faso were releasing hostages from one hotel yesterday morning, militants were taking over another. BBC News reported yesterday morning that the first attack on Ouagadougou’s four-star Splendid Hotel left at least 23 people from 18 different nationalities dead.
Four attackers were killed, two of them women, said officials. The fourth was killed as troops moved in to the second hotel.
Yesterday afternoon, the UK’s Independent newspaper reported that security forces stormed the Yibi Hotel, where the extremists had moved to after the soldiers had cleared the Splendid Hotel across the street.
Although 23 people are believed to have been killed in the attack, Reuters reported that France’s ambassador to Burkina Faso said 27 people had, in fact, died.
Burkina Faso’s interior minister, Simon Compaoré, said of those dead, 10 bodies had been found on the hotel’s cafè terrace and 33 people had been wounded.
He told AFP the death toll could rise further as security forces continued to search for casualties. “We do not yet have a total tally of the dead. The Burkinabé forces are still combing the hotel,” he said.
According to the Site Intelligence Group, as the siege was under way, the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb militant group claimed responsibility online.
In a message posted in Arabic on the extremists’ “Muslim Africa” Telegram account, it said fighters “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”.
Extremists had launched bombing and shooting attacks at the first hotel, believed to have been targeting Westerners.
It was reported that the first attack began when the terrorists stormed the hotel and adjoining Café Cappuccino late on Friday night, detonating bombs that set surrounding cars on fire.
Cars and motorbikes were burnt, and overturned chairs and shards of glass lay scattered near the hotel.
The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported that 60 people were freed when security forces first stormed the building. Commandos went floor to floor, battling gunmen several hours after the first attack.
“It was horrible; people were sleeping and there was blood everywhere,” said Yannick Sawadogo, one of those who escaped.
“They were firing at people at close range. We heard them speaking, and they were walking around people and firing at people who were not dead. And when they came out, they started a fire,” added Sawadogo.
Onlookers were kept far away from the fighting that continued into daylight.
The siege finally ended on yesterday morning as security forces freed the hostages.
Remi Dandjinou, Burkina Faso’s communications minister, told the BBC there were between six and seven gunmen, and they had been staying at the hotel.
He also said a member of the government, Minister of Public Works Clément Sawadogo, was among those freed.
Hours after the five-storey hotel had been cleared, Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré visited the hotel, but there was no immediate comment on the attack from him.
The Splendid Hotel is popular with Western visitors, UN workers, diplomats and French soldiers based in Burkina Faso for Operation Barkhane, which is fighting Islamist militants across the Sahel region.
The Independent reported that France’s President François Hollande – whose forces were part of the operation against the militants – condemned the “odious and cowardly attack”.
It has been reported that the attack was launched by the same extremist group that raided the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital of Bamako less than two months ago, leaving at least 21 people dead, including two Islamist militants.
The militants drove into the hotel’s compound, detonated grenades, opened fire at security guards and then took about 170 people hostage. Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta declared a national state of emergency at the time.
AS IT HAPPENED
The scene during Friday’s attack outside the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso ARMED PATROL A Kenyan soldier carries a rocketpropelled grenade launcher
REINFORCEMENTS French soldiers arrive at the site of the attack to render assistance
ESCAPING Terrified civilians are brought to safety in a military vehicle
UNDER SIEGE Security police take cover as Islamist gunmen go on a shooting rampage