Burkina Faso attack: At least 28 dead, scores freed after hotel siege – CNN

Attack demonstrates al Qaeda revival in Africa

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore told the nation 28 people were killed and 54 more were wounded. The wounded included two Burkinabe police officers, one soldier and one service member from France.

Two French nationals were among the dead, CNN affiliate BFMTV reported, citing the French Foreign Ministry. Canada said six of its citizens were killed.

Four of the dead, including a 9-year-old girl, were from Ukraine. Two of the deceased were from Switzerland, that nation’s Foreign Ministry said.

The United States said one American died.

“We extend our condolences to the family of Michael James Riddering, a U.S. citizen killed in this violence. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time, as they are with all those affected by this brutality,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

It was unclear whether the death toll included the three attackers that Kabore said were killed.

‘We could hear them talking’

Survivors described horrific scenes as the attackers paced and fired in the hotel Friday night.

“We could hear them talking and they were walking around and kept shooting at people who seemed alive,” Sawadogo told CNN affiliate BFMTV.

Sawadogo said he escaped through a broken window, and could barely see because of smoke.

Burkinabe forces scoured rooms at the hotel, looking for terrorists and any remaining hostages. Those rescued included a government minister, state media reported.

The West African nation’s forces received logistical support from American and French troops. Shortly after the forces stormed the hotel, the sounds of gunshots faded.

Hotel popular with diplomats

The attack in Burkina Faso appeared well-planned, with some of the attackers coming to the hotel during the day and mingling with guests, the foreign minister said.

When darkness fell, more attackers joined them, he said.

Before the hotel assault, they attacked the Cappuccino café across the street, which had about 100 people, according to the state broadcaster.

They then took off to the Splendid Hotel, where they seized hostages.

Witnesses said the attackers wore turbans and spoke a language not native to Burkina Faso, a former French colony.

U.S. forces helped with logistical support. The United States has about 75 military personnel in Burkina Faso, including 15 assigned to the U.S. Embassy, according to a U.S. defense official. An additional 60 help train and advise the French military in the nation.

Al Qaeda group claims responsibility

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the assault, local media reported. CNN could not independently confirm that claim.

Al Qaeda-linked Al-Mourabitoun said it conducted the attack, which had similarities to the one in neighboring Mali in November.

Al-Mourabitoun had claimed responsibility for the November attack at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali, which left 22 people dead.

The group’s leader is veteran al Qaeda figure Mokhtar Belmokhtar, according to the Mauritania-based Al Akhbar news agency.

In June, Libya’s interim government reported that he died in an American airstrike.

‘Odious and cowardly attack’

The attack comes a few months after Burkina Faso marked a turning point following a historic presidential election.

Burkina Faso elected a new president in November after nearly three decades of autocratic rule followed by a civil uprising.

Kabore, the nation’s former prime minister, won more than 53% of votes in that election.

Elections were postponed the month before because of a failed coup against the transitional government.

The West, particularly France, considers Burkina Faso a key ally in the fight against al Qaeda.

French President Francois Hollande said he stands with the nation against the “odious and cowardly attack.”

The U.S. Embassy condemned the attack, describing it as a ” senseless assault on innocent people.”

More violence

Two Australian doctors who are married were abducted early Saturday, Kabore said.

The couple was taken in the town of Djibo near the border with Mali. They worked in a clinic there.

Australian authorities did not immediately comment on the kidnapping.

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