What Happened In Burkina Faso? At Least 23 People Are Dead In An Attack On A Hotel
At least 23 people are dead after a bloody attack at a Burkina Faso hotel that broke out Friday night in the West African nation's capital. According to The New York Times, four attackers, including two women, opened fire on the Splendid Hotel and Cappuccino Cafe in the city of Ouagadougou. The siege lasted for hours, but by Saturday morning, all four of the gunmen had been killed by security forces.
According to government officials, 126 hostages were freed from the popular hotel and cafe early Saturday morning when the police standoff came to a close. All four attackers were killed by police, with three of them killed at the hotel.
The attackers are believed to be connected to al Qaeda, and an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group has already claimed responsibility for the deadly assault. Two of the four attackers were female, indicating that women jihadists are beginning to take a larger role in extremists groups.
Reports from the scene paint a violent, fiery picture of a barrage of gunfire, arson, and explosions in the streets, leaving charred cars and motorbikes strewn about outside the hotel. "After about 20 minutes the situation calmed down and then the firing started again," witness Inoussa Diarra told The New York Times.
"The situation we're experiencing since yesterday in Burkina Faso is unprecedented," Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said Saturday when he visited the aftermath at the Splendid Hotel. "These are vile, cowardly acts and the victims are innocent people."
He called for Burkina Faso citizens to remain "vigilant and courageous" in the country's fight against terrorism. "[W]e must include terrorist acts as an integral part of our daily struggle," the president said.
The 23 victims of the hotel attack have yet to be identified, but Burkina Faso officials confirmed Saturday that they hail from 18 different countries. The Splendid Hotel is reportedly a popular spot among foreigners, particularly Westerners.
Gilles Thibault, the French ambassador to Burkina Faso, tweeted via his official account on Saturday that 27 people were killed in the attack, but it's unclear if Thibault is including the four jihadis in the casualty count; he also tweeted that 150 hostages were freed from the hotel and nearby cafe. It's not confirmed at this time if any victims of the attack were French nationals.
According to NBC News, French security forces traveled from Mali to Burkina Faso overnight to assist local police forces. One U.S. military member was reportedly embedded with the French forces.
The U.S. Department of State condemned the deadly assault in a Twitter statement on Saturday. "We extend deepest condolences to families of victims," the state department tweeted. Secretary of State John Kerry has yet to release a statement. NBC News reports that the United States is working with French intelligence, and is monitoring the unfolding situation.