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Burkina Faso Mourns 29 Killed in Terrorist Attack

  • VOA Staff

Burnt vehicles are seen in the surroundings of the Splendid hotel following an attack by Al-Qaeda linked gunmen on Jan. 16, 2016 in Ouagadougou.

Burnt vehicles are seen in the surroundings of the Splendid hotel following an attack by Al-Qaeda linked gunmen on Jan. 16, 2016 in Ouagadougou.

Burkina Faso has declared three days of national mourning following the attack on a luxury hotel and a nearby cafe in the capital that killed at least 29 people from 18 countries.

The dead included six Canadians, two French, two Swiss and one American citizen. Scores of people were wounded.

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who took office last month, said "For the first time in its history, our country has fallen victim to a series of barbaric terrorist attacks." He said the West African country will nevertheless "emerge victorious."

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

Interior Minister Simon Compaore said more than 150 hostages were rescued in the security operation, but a number of them were wounded.

The fighting between the two sides lasted 12 hours. Four jihadists, including two women, were reported to have been killed by the time the fighting was over.

A view shows vehicles on fire outside Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in this still image taken from a video, Jan. 15, 2016, during a siege by Islamist gunmen.

A view shows vehicles on fire outside Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in this still image taken from a video, Jan. 15, 2016, during a siege by Islamist gunmen.

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.

Burkina Faso's soldiers take position in the surroundings of the Splendid hotel following an attack by Al-Qaeda linked gunmen on Jan. 16, 2016 in Ouagadougou.

Burkina Faso's soldiers take position in the surroundings of the Splendid hotel following an attack by Al-Qaeda linked gunmen on Jan. 16, 2016 in Ouagadougou.

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.

Video from the attack scene:

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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