Burkina Faso hotel siege ends with 126 hostages freed

Security forces ended the hours-long siege of a luxury hotel in Burkina Faso's capital by suspected al-Qaeda gunmen, freeing 126 hostages and killing three attackers on Saturday.

Interior Minister Simon Compaore said 33 of the hostages were injured but did elaborate on the number of dead. Earlier, Compaore said 10 people were killed.

The 147-room Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou was stormed by militants around 7:30 pm (1930 GMT) on Friday after they opened fire on the Cappuccino Cafe next door.

A hospital employee told dpa that at least 20 people were killed in the two attacks.

Burkinabe and French troops had battled with the militants holed-up in the four-star hotel, where gunfire was heard throughout the night.

The area surrounding the hotel has been sealed off and soldiers are scouring buildings for any militants who may have escaped.

The US-based monitoring group SITE Intel said the group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility and said 30 hostages had been killed.

The attack occurred just weeks after President Roch Kabore took office. Kabore, 58, was elected in November in the first free elections in the country in 50 years.

The landlocked country is the largest cotton producer in Africa and is also rich in gold. Despite its resources, it is one of the poorest countries in the world.

French President Francois Hollande "declared his complete support for President Kabore and to the Burkinabe people in the despicable and cowardly attack that has hit Ouagadougou," his office said in a statement.

France's ambassador to Burkina Faso, Gilles Thibault, said on Twitter that an Air France flight from Paris to Ouagadougou had been diverted to Niger.

Last update: Sat, 16/01/2016 - 14:02
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