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Saturday, January 16, 2016, 16:51

23 dead in Burkina Faso hotel attack

By Agencies

23 dead in Burkina Faso hotel attack
French first responders tend to wounded people in the surrounding of the hotel and the café during the attack on Jan 15, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / NABILA EL HADAD)

OUAGADOUGOU - Burkina Faso and French forces killed four extremists and freed 126 people as they took back control of a luxury hotel in the capital that had been seized by the attackers, the minister of security said Saturday.

The Islamic extremists stormed the hotel and a nearby cafe Friday night.

Gunfire ramped up early Saturday as gendarme and military forces fought to take back the fire-blackened building. They took control of the Splendid Hotel and were searching nearby hotels to be sure there were not extremists hiding there, said Minister of Security and Internal Affairs Simon Compaore.

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said 23 people were killed and more than 30 others wounded in the attack.

He said two of the three attackers killed earlier Saturday have been identified as women.

23 dead in Burkina Faso hotel attack

The harrowing attack was launched by the same extremists behind a similar siege at an upscale hotel in Bamako, Mali in November that left 20 dead. It was not immediately known how many people remained inside the hotel in Ouagadougou as the morning call to prayer signaled a new day in this West African nation.

An al-Qaida affiliate known as AQIM, or al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, claimed responsibility online as the attack was ongoing in downtown Ouagadougou at the 147-room hotel, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

In a message posted in Arabic on the militants' "Muslim Africa" Telegram account, it said fighters "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." Fighters who spoke by phone later "asserted the fall of many dead Crusaders," AQIM said, according to SITE.

Burkina Faso, a largely Muslim country, had for years been mostly spared from the violence carried out by Islamic extremist groups who were abducting foreigners for ransom in Mali and Niger. Then last April, a Romanian national was kidnapped in an attack that was the first of its kind in Burkina Faso.

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