Overnight on Friday, gunmen linked to Al Qaeda seized a luxury hotel, popular with Westerners, in the capital of Burkina Faso. By Saturday morning, security forces had killed four attackers, the Associated Press reports. At least 23 other people were also killed.
Three of the attackers were killed at the Splendid Hotel, in Ouagadougou, the nation’s capital, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said on national radio. Two were women. The fourth attacker was killed at a second hotel nearby.
About 33 people were wounded in the siege and 126 freed, the AP reports. An Al Qaeda affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, claimed responsibility for the attack, calling for “revenge against France and the disbelieving West.” Burkina Faso is a former French colony.
France, which maintains a military garrison in Burkina Faso, scrambled to respond to the siege, sending 30 of its soldiers to assist at least 40 from Burkina Faso’s military who massed outside the hotel. Witnesses reported that the forces began a counterassault to retake the hotel early Saturday. One witness, Olympia de Maismont, said that “several hostages had been freed” and that intermittent gunfire could be heard. Later, Rémis Dandjinou, Burkina Faso’s minister of communication, said that 63 people had been freed, 33 of whom had been wounded.
A Defense Department official in Washington said the French had requested surveillance and reconnaissance help from the American military, which has 75 personnel in Burkina Faso, mostly involved in training and advising as well as maintaining a drone base. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said one American military member was “providing advice and assistance” to French forces outside the hotel. No other American military personnel were believed to be directly involved.