Over 60 Hostages Freed from Hotel Attacked by Al-Qaeda in Burkina Faso
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Sixty-three hostages, including 33 wounded, were evacuated in the early hours of Saturday from a Burkina Faso hotel besieged by al Qaeda-linked gunmen, communication minister Remis Dandjinou said.
“There are some dead but we don’t have the numbers. The assault is ongoing with the Burkinabe forces supported by French special forces,” Dandjinou said, adding that amongst those rescued was labour minister Clement Sawadogo.
The breakthrough in the ongoing siege came after security forces launched an assault in the early hours of Saturday to rescue hostages held by the Al Qaeda linked gunman in a Burkina Faso hotel where at least 20 people have been killed.
A fire raged at the main entrance and screams could be heard from inside Ouagadougou’s four-star Splendid hotel, which often has UN staff among its guests and has security checks at its entrances, accrding to AFP.
The attack comes less than two months after a militant hostage siege at the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in the Malian capital Bamako in which 20 people died including 14 foreigners — an attack claimed by the same Al-Qaeda affiliate as the unfolding Ouagadougou assault.
The French ambassador to Ouagadougou Gilles Thibault announced the beginning of the assault on Twitter.
“The assault has started, the various components of the armed forces and security forces have begun their missions,” Thibault said.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack saying it was “revenge against France and the disbelieving West”, according to US-based monitoring group SITE.
The “mujahideen brothers” of AQIM “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”, SITE quoted the group as saying.
The attackers were members of the Al-Murabitoun group based in Mali and run by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, SITE said.
An AFP reporter at one point saw three men clad in turbans firing at the scene on Avenue Kwame Nkrumah, one of Ouagadougou’s main thoroughfares.
A witness also reported seeing four assailants who were of Arab or white appearance and “wearing turbans”.
The French embassy said on its website that a “terrorist attack” was underway and urged people to avoid the area. An Air France flight from Paris to Ouagadougou was diverted to neighbouring Niger.