Ouagadougou (dpa) – At least 20 people were killed Friday in a terrorist attack on a restaurant and hotel in the capital of the western African country of Burkina Faso.
Several people have been injured, many critically, a hospital employee told dpa.
Heavily armed gunmen opened fire at a popular restaurant in Ouagadougou before taking an unknown number of hostages in a hotel frequented by Westerners Friday night.
They exchanged fire with security forces, a witness told dpa. Cars were set on fire outside the hotel. The area around the hotel was sealed off and a curfew was imposed until 6 am.
France requested immediate support from the US military, according to the Pentagon. At least one member of the US military was advising and assisting French forces in the former colony.
There are an estimated 75 US military personnel in Burkina Faso. Fifteen are assigned to the embassy and the rest provide training and other services to the French military, the Pentagon said.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack, but the US-based monitoring group SITE Intel said a group called al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility.
AQIM “broke into a restaurant of one of the biggest hotels in the capital of Burkina Faso,” it said. “And are now entrenched and the clashes are continuing with the enemies of the religion.”
The attack occurred just weeks after President Roch Kabore took office. Kabore, 58, was elected in November in the first free elections in the country in 50 years.
The landlocked country is the largest cotton producer in Africa and is also rich in gold. Despite its resources, it is one of the poorest countries in the world.