Burkina Faso hotel siege ends, 32 dead

The siege of a hotel in Burkina Faso hotel has ended after 12 hours, with 28 people slain in the bloody incursion; four jihadis were also killed.

Burnt cars sit outside the Splendid Hotel

Burnt cars sit outside the Splendid Hotel (L) and Cappuccino restaurant (R) following a jihadist attack in Ouagadougou. Source: AFP

The al-Qaeda fighters who stormed a popular hangout in Burkina Faso's capital at dinnertime came with a mission to kill as many people as possible, firing at people as they moved to a nearby hotel and setting the cafe ablaze.

When the gunfire stopped after a more than 12-hour siege, at least 28 people had been slain in an unprecedented attack on this West African country.

Like the extremist attacks from Paris to Jakarta, the assailants in the Friday evening attack targeted an area where people from different nationalities gathered to enjoy life.

The victims had been grabbing a cold drink outside or staying at one of the capital's few upscale hotels.

An audio tape later released by the al-Qaeda group claiming responsibility for the carnage was entitled: "A Message Signed with Blood and Body Parts".

Among the victims from 18 different countries were the wife and five-year-old daughter of the Italian man who owns the Cappuccino Cafe, where at least 10 people died in a hail of gunfire and smoke after the attackers set the building ablaze before moving on to the Splendid Hotel nearby.

Two French and two Swiss citizens were confirmed among the dead late on Saturday by the two countries' foreign ministries.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that six of the dead were Canadians.

Authorities said the four known attackers - all killed by security forces - had come in a vehicle with plates from neighbouring Niger.

At least two of them were women and one was of African descent.

"I heard the gunfire and I saw a light by my window and I thought it was fireworks at first," said Rachid Faouzi Ouedraogo, a 22-year-old accounting student who lives near the scene of the carnage.

"I raced downstairs and once outside I saw people running through the street and four people firing on the people at Cappuccino."

Burkinabe forces backed by French soldiers based in neighbouring Mali managed to help free at least 126 hostages.

"We appeal to the people to be vigilant and brave because we must fight on," President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said on national radio on Saturday.

The North Africa branch of al-Qaeda, founded in Algeria, claimed responsibility for the bloodbath even as it was unfolding in a series of statements published and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

The al-Qaeda affiliate known as AQIM - now working in tandem with feared extremist Moktar Belmoktar - later released an audio clip it said was a conversation with one of the fighters later slain in Ouagadougou.

Burkina Faso is a largely Muslim country though it is home to a number of French nationals as a former colony of France.

On Sunday, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement that an Australian doctor and his wife had been kidnapped in Burkina Faso's north.

The two were abducted from the town of Djibo near the border with Mali.

The reports said the couple have lived since 1972 in Djibo, near Baraboule, where they work in a volunteer medical clinic which they built.

Jihadists also hold a third foreigner: a Romanian national who was kidnapped in an attack last April that was the first of its kind at the time.

3 min read
Published 17 January 2016 at 12:56am
Source: AAP