Burkina hotel retaken from al Qaeda fighters, but dozens dead

Sun Jan 17, 2016 9:40am GMT

By Mathieu Bonkoungou and Nadoun Coulibaly

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Security forces in Burkina Faso retook a hotel in the capital on Saturday a day after al Qaeda fighters seized it in an assault that killed at least 28 people from at least 18 countries and marked a major escalation of Islamist militancy in West Africa.

Until Friday's attack, the landlocked nation, an ally of Western governments against jihadist groups in the arid reaches of the southern Sahara, had largely been spared the violence that has plagued its neighbours.

The assault follows a similar raid in November on a luxury hotel in Mali's capital Bamako which killed 20 people, including citizens of Russia, China and the United States.

The Ouagadougou assault, claimed by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), marked an expansion of operations for Islamist militants who are stepping up their activities, echoing the growth of Islamic State in the Middle East.

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said 28 people were killed in the 146-room Splendid Hotel, in the Cappuccino restaurant across the street and at a second nearby hotel, the Hotel Yibi, according to an initial death toll.

Speaking on state-run television, Kabore said 156 hostages had been freed by the security operation to retake the area, while around 50 civilians had been wounded. Four members of the security forces, including one French soldier were also wounded.

"Faced with these terrorists and their vile acts, we must mobilise to ensure the appropriate response to put them out of action," Kabore said.

"We will emerge victorious from this war, which has been imposed upon our people and all other people of the world who want peace and freedom," he said, adding that the nation would observe three days of mourning from Sunday.   Continued...

Emergency workers remove a corpse in a body bag from the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, January 16, 2016, after security forces retook the hotel from al Qaeda fighters who seized it in an assault that killed two dozen people from at least 18 countries and marked a major escalation of Islamist militancy in West Africa.  REUTERS/Joe Penney
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