Simon Gongo, Baudelaire Mieu and Olivier Monnier

Armed attackers take hostages at hotel in Burkina Faso

Armed assailants stormed a hotel in the West African city of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on Friday evening, taking hostages and burning vehicles in what appears to be the latest terrorist attack by Islamic militants.

Three armed men entered the Splendid Hotel, which was surrounded by police and military troops, Burkina Faso army spokesman Guy-Herve Ye said in a phone interview, adding that an assault to take back the hotel had been ordered. The terrorist group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the violence, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. The hotel is popular with Westerners and United Nations officials.

Burkina Faso
A Burkinabe soldier looks out from behind a wall before A counter-assault on Islamist gunmen at the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, January 16, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

“There are many hostages from many nationalities in the hotel,” Foreign Minister Alpha Barry said on France24. The attack “is reminiscent of a terrorist attack and jihadists” and follows an assault earlier in the day near the border with Mali and Niger that left at least two dead, he added.

The U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou said it is “closely following the situation downtown,” while France Info reported that an Air France flight coming from Paris was diverted to neighboring Niger. AFP said several people had been killed, citing an unidentified restaurant hotel employee. Radio Omega, a local outlet, said the government had ordered a curfew.

The attack comes two months after at least 20 people were killed in neighboring Mali following a Islamist terrorist attack on a luxury hotel in the capital, Bamako, and days after a gun- and-suicide bomb assault claimed by the Islamic State in central Jakarta, Indonesia. Islamist militants in Somalia claimed this week to have killed 63 Kenyan soldiers at an African Union military base in the southwest of the country.

Burkina Faso, Africa’s fourth-largest gold producer, has faced political instability in recent years. Formerly known as the Republic of Upper Volta, its president was ousted in October 2014. A coup followed in September last year and, in November elections, Roch Marc Christian Kabore was voted into the presidency.

 – Bloomberg