Twenty Reported Dead in Burkina Faso Hotel Attack



  Not more than 20 people are reported to have been killed after suspected Islamist militants attacked a hotel in Burkina Faso and took hostages.
Security forces have launched a counter-assault, storming the Splendid Hotel in the capital Ouagadougou more than five hours after it was targeted.

Witnesses say the hotel has now caught fire after commandos used explosives to enter the building to try and free an unknown number of hostages.
Several cars outside the hotel are also in flames. Witnesses said four or five gunmen launched the attack on the hotel, firing into the air to drive back crowds before security forces arrived, prompting an intense exchange of gunfire.

The Cappuccino cafe-restaurant nearby has also been targeted, a witness said, with gunfire resuming after a lull of more than an hour.
One civilian was shot and killed in the latest round of gunfire, a witness told Reuters, after medical personnel earlier evacuated those who had been wounded.

According to the SITE intelligence group, al Qaeda of Islamic Maghreb has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Robert Sangare, the head of Yalgado Ouedraogo hospital in the city, told the AFP news agency at least 20 people have been killed in the attack, with another 15 wounded.
Witness Vital Nounagnon told the Associated Press he saw four men wearing turbans attack the hotel and cafe.
Another witness, who only gave his first name, Gilbert, said security forces initially turned around rather than confront the attackers.
The hotel is popular with westerners and United Nations staff and often used by French troops with Operation Barkhane, a force based in Chad and set up to combat Islamist militants across Africa's vast, arid Sahel region.

A US defence official said one US military member is providing "advice and assistance" to French forces at the hotel.
Photojournalist Marina Spironetti, who is on the scene, told Sky News: "We know that there are still some cars burning and police are all around the hotel and in the proximity of the cafe."

Burkina Faso, a largely Muslim country, has endured bouts of political turmoil since 2014 when veteran President Blaise Compaore was overthrown in a popular protest.
But the country has been largely spared violence by Islamist militants who have staged attacks in neighbouring Mali.

Culled from #SkyNews
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