Ter­ror stalks Burk­ina Faso

Four gun­men killed, hostages freed as troops storm one ho­tel while ter­ror­ists move into an­other

CityPress - - News - STAFF RE­PORTER news@city­press.co.za

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.

PHOTO: AP PHOTO: AP

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

PHOTO: REUTERS

RE­IN­FORCE­MENTS French sol­diers ar­rive at the site of the at­tack to ren­der as­sis­tance

PHOTO: REUTERS

ES­CAP­ING Ter­ri­fied civil­ians are brought to safety in a mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle

PHOTO: REUTERS

UN­DER SIEGE Se­cu­rity po­lice take cover as Is­lamist gun­men go on a shoot­ing ram­page

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