At least 20 people died and others were taken hostage when Islamist gunmen stormed a hotel in the capital city of Burkina Faso on Friday, a hospital director said, an attack for which al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility.
Security forces began an assault to reclaim the Splendid Hotel in the early hours of Saturday and entered its lobby, part of which was on fire, a Reuters witness said. The hotel is frequented by Westerners, which may have made it a target for the militants.
About 30 hostages including the labor minister were freed from the hotel, said Minister of Communications Remis Dandjinou. No one has said publicly how many hostages might be in the hotel.
It was the first time militants have carried out an assault in the capital of Burkina Faso and comes as a setback to efforts by African governments, France and the United States to prevent attacks that have destabilized the region.
It 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. There have been many attacks by militants in other countries in West Africa in recent years and the vast majority of those killed have been Africans.