the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou

Security forces battle Islamist gunmen holding hostages in hotel

Suspected Islamist fighters hold hostages at a hotel used by foreigners in Burkina Faso’s capital, in an attack claimed by Al Qaeda.

OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO (JANUARY 15, 2016) (RTB) – Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said on Friday (January 15) it was responsible for an ongoing attack on a hotel in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou, SITE Intelligence Group reported.

A senior member of the ultra hardline group had called in December for Muslims in several countries, including Burkina Faso, to wage jihad. AQIM, along with two other groups, also claimed responsibility for killing 20 people and taking hostages in the capital of neighbouring Mali in November.

The gunmen were holding hostages after storming the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou’s business district, burning cars outside and firing in the air to drive back crowds. Security forces then arrived, prompting an intense exchange of gunfire.

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.

The landlocked West African state has endured bouts of political turmoil since October 2014 when veteran President Blaise Compaore was overthrown during mass protests.

But it has been largely spared violence by Islamist militants who have staged attacks in Mali, a country with which it shares a 600-km (375-mile) border.

The attack would be the first in Burkina’s capital by Islamists in a country that is diverse in religious terms and has a population that is around 60 percent Muslim, according to government figures.