Burkina Faso attack: Foreigners killed at luxury hotel

  • Published
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Thomas Fessy explains how the siege started and how special forces brought it to an end

Burkina Faso's government says 28 people were killed and a further 56 injured after Islamist militants attacked a hotel in the capital, Ouagadougou, popular with foreigners.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has said it carried out the attack, which began on Friday night.

Six of those killed were from Canada, the country's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Burkina Faso is to observe 72 hours of national mourning for the victims.

The siege at the Splendid Hotel was declared over after a joint operation by local and French security forces.

At least four attackers died in the assaults. There were claims that some of those involved were women.

As well as the luxury hotel, a cafe and another hotel nearby were targeted.

Image source, AP
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The hotel is popular with UN workers and foreign residents of Burkina Faso
Image source, Abby Wirick
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An American missionary, Mike Riddering, seen here with his wife Amy, was among those killed

Burkinabe Security Minister Simon Compoare said 176 hostages had been rescued. The bodies of three "very young" attackers had been found, he said.

Among those known to have died are:

  • Six Canadian nationals - PM Justin Trudeau condemned what he called "these senseless acts of violence on innocent civilians"
  • Five Burkinabe citizens
  • Two French nationals, with one more injured, according to France's government
  • Two Swiss citizens who had been in the cafe which came under attack
  • One 67-year-old Dutch volunteer, according to the Dutch foreign ministry
  • An American missionary, Mike Riddering, whose death was announced by his wife Amy on Facebook and later confirmed by the State Department

In another development, the Burkina Faso government said a foreign doctor and his wife were kidnapped on Friday night in the north of the country, near the border with Mali. There was initial confusion over the pair's nationality - the Burkinabe government said they were Austrian, but later corrected this to Australian.

In November, an AQIM attack on a hotel in Bamako, capital of neighbouring Mali, left 19 people dead.

At the scene: Thomas Fessy, BBC News

The area surrounding the Splendid Hotel has been cordoned off. Soldiers can still be seen walking in and out of the building but the siege is now over.

At least three cars parked right outside the front door are completely charred, the remains of another two sit just across the street. Two burnt motorbikes lie in the middle.

The light purple colour of the Splendid Hotel's front side now looks black, probably caused by the smoke generated by explosions.

The Yibi hotel, opposite the Splendid, also shows signs of the attack, and the authorities say at least one attacker was killed inside the building.

Image source, EPA
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The exterior of the Splendid Hotel was damaged by car bombs
Image source, Anonymous
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A foreign soldier could be seen on the roof of the hotel

Militants attacked the Splendid and the nearby Cappuccino cafe on Friday evening, setting off several explosions. Both places are popular with UN staff and foreigners.

Survivors described how the militants went from person to person, touching their bodies to see if they moved.

"They started shooting, shooting, and everybody lay down on the ground," said Mariette, who escaped from the hotel with her younger sister.

"As soon as you lifted your head they would shoot straightaway, so you had to pretend to be dead. And they even came to touch our feet to check if we were alive. As soon as you were alive, they would shoot at you."

Background: Tomi Oladipo, BBC Africa security correspondent

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb grew from a remnant of a defunct rebel force, rooted in Algeria's civil war in the 1990s, into a wealthy and feared militant group that made its money from kidnapping Westerners and trafficking arms and drugs.

In 2007 it announced it had joined the al-Qaeda network to fight against Western interests. Later though, some of its members left to form their own factions. The most notable of these was Mokhtar Belmokhtar who was behind the 2013 siege of a gas plant in Algeria.

In November 2015 Belmokhtar's faction said it had worked with its parent group to attack a hotel in Mali. That signalled the mending of relations between some of the factions to rebuild the original AQIM, which was being overshadowed by its rival, the so-called Islamic State.

This latest attack in Burkina Faso would seem to be an attempt by AQIM not just to reinforce itself as the main jihadist group in the region, but also to show that it can spread its violent campaign to new frontiers.

As the end of the siege at the Splendid was being announced, reports came in that militants had taken up position at the Yibi hotel, a short distance away. One attacker was killed at the Yibi, officials said later.

Remi Dandjinou, the Burkinabe communications minister, told the BBC earlier that between six and seven militants had attacked the Splendid, adding that they had been staying at the hotel as guests.

Mr Compaore said two black Africans and an Arab were among the militants killed.

Image source, Reuters
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Burkinabe soldiers ringed the Splendid
Image source, EPA
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French forces also took part in the operation
Image source, AFP/Getty Images
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French police officers helped tend to the wounded

Burkina Faso recently held its first presidential election since a coup earlier last year.

That coup toppled long-time leader Blaise Compaore, who had governed for 27 years.