Hospital officials are now reporting at least 20 dead, among them foreigners, in the attacks earlier today on a luxury hotel in West Africa. And now terrorist group al-Qaida is claiming responsibility.
As the BBC reports:
Gunmen have attacked a hotel used by westerners in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, taking hostages and reportedly killing at least 20 people.
Eyewitnesses said two car bombs went off outside the Splendid hotel at around 19:30 local time (same as GMT).
Three to four masked men then stormed the Splendid Hotel, which is used by UN staff and westerners, witnesses said.
Robert Sangare, a hospital director in the city, said at least 20 people had died and 15 more wounded.Foreign Minister Alpha Barry said security forces would launch a raid to free hostages. He said he was “not ruling out possible support of foreign forces including French special forces”. One group that monitors jihadist networks said al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed it was behind the attack.
Witnesses said the gunmen had initially entered the Cappuccino cafe near the hotel. One employee at the cafe told Agence France Presse that “several people” had been killed there.
Eyewitnesses reported hearing exchanges of gunfire between the men and security forces, as well as sporadic gunfire from inside the four-star hotel close to the country’s international airport.
In the latest developments:
- Local TV station Burkina 24 says that security forces are preparing to intervene
- France’s ambassador to Burkina Faso, Gilles Thibault, says a curfew is in place until 06:00 local time
- The US embassy in Ouagadougou says it is aware of the incident and is “closely following” the situation
As The Australian reports that in a message posted in Arabic, the local al-Qaida affiliate claiming responsibility said fighters had “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.”
But of course, this has nothing to do with the “religion of peace.”
The Australian also noted:
The hotel is sometimes 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.
Friday’s violence mirrored a devastating attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in neighbouring Mali back in November that left 20 people dead. In that case, Malian troops — backed by French and American special forces — swarmed in to retake the building and free terrified guests and hotel staff during a siege that lasted more than seven hours.
Remember how our own John Kerry said al-Qaida has been “neutralized” right before the November Mali attack ? Kinda like President Obama saying ISIS has been “contained” right before 130 people were killed in Paris.
Sadly, we continue to be reminded on an almost-daily basis that anyone who believes the terrorists have been “neutralized” or “contained” is living in a fantasy land.
We will keep those involved in this tragedy in our prayers as we continue to monitor the situation.
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]