Burkina siege over with at least 23 dead from 18 nations

French special forces take position in the surroundings of the Splendid hotel following an attack by al-Qaeda linked gunmen on January 16, 2016 in Ouagadougou. (AFP/OUOBA_AHMED)

French special forces take position in the surroundings of the Splendid hotel following an attack by al-Qaeda linked gunmen on January 16, 2016 in Ouagadougou. (AFP/OUOBA_AHMED)

126 people freed when security forces end jihadist assault, retake hotel and adjacent cafe popular with Westerners, UN personnel

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AFP) — At least 23 people from 18 countries were killed in an attack by jihadist gunmen on a top hotel and a restaurant in the capital of Burkina Faso, before security forces ended the siege on Saturday and killed four assailants.

Burkina Faso Africa map

A total of 126 people were freed, including 33 wounded, from the four-star Splendid hotel, popular with Westerners and UN personnel, after security forces retook the 147-room facility and the Cappuccino restaurant nearby in the early hours of Saturday, Interior Minister Simon Compaore told AFP.

The jihadists’ assault had been completely crushed by midday Saturday, a security source said. Four jihadists, including two women, were killed in the counter-assault.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack saying it was “revenge against France and the disbelieving West”, according to a statement carried by US-based monitoring group SITE.

The attackers were members of the Al-Murabitoun group based in Mali and run by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, SITE said.

The security source said at least 23 people from 18 countries were killed in the jihadists’ assaults, adding that the toll could yet rise.

Aside from the four jihadists killed, a fifth attacker could be seen rushing into a nearby bar, according to witnesses who managed to escape.

Compaore told AFP earlier that firefighters had seen 10 bodies on the terrace of the restaurant.

A total of “126 people, including at least 33 wounded, have been freed. Three jihadists — an Arab and two black Africans — have been killed,” Compaore said.

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who took office just last month, visited the hotel Saturday but made no immediate comment.

Communication Minister Remis Dandjinou told AFP the counter-assault was carried out by Burkinabe troops with the support of French special forces. He also said that among those who escaped unharmed was Labor Minister Clement Sawadogo.

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