- A government minister was among those rescued
- Preliminary reports indicate that 20 people were killed
Of those freed, 33 have been hospitalized, Burkinabe Foreign Minister Alpha Barry told CNN affiliate BFMTV. He said preliminary reports indicate that 20 people were killed.
Burkinabe forces scoured the rooms at the Splendid Hotel, looking for terrorists and any remaining hostages, state broadcaster RTB reported. Those rescued included a government minister.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the Friday night attack in the capital of Ouagadougou.
Burkinabe forces, with logistical support from American and French troops, circled the hotel for several hours before they rescued hostages.
Shortly after they stormed the hotel, gunshots that had raged for most of the day died down.
Hotel popular with diplomats
The attack Friday night started when an unknown number of gunmen attacked the Cappuccino café, which had about 100 people inside, the state broadcaster reported.
From there, they took off to a hotel across the street and started firing as they seized hostages. The hotel is a popular meeting spot for Western diplomats and business people.
Witnesses said the attackers wore turbans and spoke a language not native to Burkina Faso, a former French colony.
As the siege continued, the U.S. planned to fly a drone over the scene to provide surveillance, a U.S. defense official said.
The U.S. has about 75 military personnel in Burkina Faso, including 15 assigned to the embassy, according to the defense official.
An additional 60 help train and advise the French military in the nation.
Al Qaeda claims responsibility
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb immediately claimed responsibility for the assault, local media reported. CNN could not independently confirm that claim.
A branch of the Al Qaeda group, Al-Mourabitoun, said it conducted the attack, which had similarities to one in neighboring Mali in November.
Al-Mourabitoun had claimed responsibility for the attack at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali, which left 22 people dead.
The group’s leader is veteran al Qaeda figure Mokhtar Belmokhtar, according to the Mauritania-based Al Akhbar news agency.
In June, Libya’s interim government reported that he died in an American airstrike.
Burkina Faso has new President
The attack comes a few months after Burkina Faso marked a turning point following a historic presidential election.
The West African nation elected a new President in November after nearly three decades of autocratic rule followed by a civil uprising.
Roch Marc Christian Kabore, the nation’s former prime minister, won more than 53% of votes in that election.
Elections were postponed the month before because of a failed coup against the transitional government.
The West, particularly France, considers Burkina Faso a key ally in the fight against al Qaeda.
Journalist Basidou Kinda contributed from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. CNN’s Barbara Starr also contributed to this report.
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