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Homeland Security

Deadly Islamist Militants Attack on Burkina Faso Hotel is Over

by VOA News January 16, 2016

Burkina Faso government officials say the siege of an upscale hotel that killed at least 23 people in the capital, Ouagadougou, has ended.

Interior Minister Simon Campaore said Saturday that the victims from 18 countries died in the attack at the Splendid Hotel, adding that more than 150 hostages were rescued in a security operation but a number of them were wounded.

Campaore said that three militant jihadists were killed in the attack, two women and one man.

Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who took office last month, visited the hotel Saturday and called the attack 'cowardly and vile.'

Kabore said that the country will not back down in the face of Islamist extremism and thanked international forces for helping end the hotel siege.

Al-Qaida affiliate claimed responsibility

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the raid.

Meanwhile, a foreign doctor and his wife were kidnapped in the Baraboule area of Burkina Faso near the border with Mali.

Burkina Faso's Communications Minister, Remi Dandjinou, said Saturday that the couple abducted were Australian nationals, correcting an interior ministry statement earlier that they were Austrian.

It was not immediately clear whether they were living in Burkina Faso or were there as tourists, or whether the abduction was linked to the Splendid Hotel siege.

French military support

Government troops, along with their French counterparts, battled the militants to retake the luxury hotel popular with foreigners and U.N. staff in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, after gunmen raided the building late Friday.

Elite security forces stormed the hotel in a raid that began about five hours after gunmen attacked the Splendid Hotel. A fire was seen blazing in the lobby after the raid began.

French President Francois Hollande condemned the 'odious and cowardly attack.' A statement from Hollande's office said he 'expressed his full support to President Kabore.' Burkina Faso is a former French colony.

A U.S. defense official said the AFRICOM U.S. Military Command Center for Africa monitored the situation, and that all U.S. defense personnel were accounted for, contradicting some reports that U.S. military personnel were sheltering inside the hotel.

Burkina Faso has endured bouts of political turmoil since October 2014 when President Blaise Compaore was overthrown in a popular uprising. Last September, members of a presidential guard launched a coup that lasted about a week. The transitional government returned to power until Burkina Faso's November election ushered in new leaders.

However, Islamist militants have carried out attacks at similar hotels in neighboring Mali, including one on the Radisson Blu hotel in November that left 20 people dead.

VOA's Carla Babb and Pam Dockins and the VOA Africa service contributed to this report.

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