At least 20 people are reported to have been killed and dozens more were wounded in an Islamist attack on a hotel in the heart of Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou.
Elite security forces stormed the hotel in a raid that began about five hours after gunmen attacked the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou. A fire was seen blazing in the lobby of the hotel after the raid began.
Burkina Faso officials said 63 hostages were released including a member of the government.
Early Saturday, authorities said 10 bodies were discovered near a cafe that was attacked by the militants.
According to Africanews correspondent in Ouagadougou, Salouka Boureima, the assault began around 8.30 p.m. local time, during which time the attackers torched cars and fired in the air to drive people back from the building.
There was an intense gun battle followed by at least an hour of relative quiet, in part as security forces prepared their bid to recapture the hotel.
The hotel is sometimes used by French troops with Operation Barkhane, a force based in Chad and set up to combat Islamist militants across West Africa’s vast, arid Sahel region.
French President Francois Hollande condemned what he described as an “odious and cowardly attack”.
It is the first time militants have carried out an assault in the capital of Burkina Faso and it comes as a setback to efforts by African governments, France and the United States to prevent attacks that have destabilised the region.
The attack follows a raid on a luxury hotel in Mali last November in which two attackers killed 20 people, including citizens of Russia, China and the United States.
Burkina Faso has endured political turmoil since October 2014 when longtime President Blaise Compaore was overthrown during mass protests. Elite troops launched a one-week coup in September 2015.
But the landlocked West African state has been largely spared violence by Islamist militants, who have staged attacks in Mali, a country with which it shares a 600-km border.
The attack presents a significant challenge to President Roch Marc Kabore, who was elected in November as Burkina Faso’s first new leader in decades.