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Deadly Islamist Militants Attack on Burkina Faso Hotel is Over

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 government officials say the siege of an upscale hotel in the capital by suspected Islamist militants is over, leaving at least 23 people from 18 countries dead.

Authorities said Saturday 126 hostages were rescued in the security operation at the Splendid Hotel and at least 30 of the rescued hostages were wounded.

Officials say three jihadists were also killed in the operation at the Splendid hotel. A fourth was found and killed later in a nearby hotel. Officials say two of the four jihadists were women.

Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who took office last month, visited the hotel Saturday where he called the attack "cowardly and vile."

Army forces drive near Hotel Splendid in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou, after gunmen stormed the hotel and took several hostages January 15, 2016
Army forces drive near Hotel Splendid in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou, after gunmen stormed the hotel and took several hostages January 15, 2016

French support

Government troops along with their French counterparts battled the militants to retake the hotel popular with foreigners and U.N. staff in Ouagadougou after the gunmen raided the building late Friday.

Elite security forces stormed the hotel in a raid that began about five hours after gunmen attacked the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou. A fire was seen blazing in the lobby of the hotel after the raid began.

Early Saturday, authorities said 10 bodies were discovered near a cafe that was attacked by the militants.

French President Francois Hollande has condemned the "odious and cowardly attack." A statement from Hollande's office Saturday said Hollande has "expressed his full support to President (Roch Marc Christian) Kabore." Burkina Faso is a former French colony.

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

"It is continuing at this time. We are trying to know how many attackers they are to better coordinate our actions. Hostages have been taken. The operation could take several hours," the officer said, asking not to be named.

The local al-Qaida affiliate known as AQIM claimed responsibility as the attack was ongoing, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activity.

A U.S. defense official said AFRICOM, the U.S. military command center for Africa, was monitoring the situation, and that all U.S. defense personnel were accounted for, contradicting some reports that U.S. military personnel were sheltering in the hotel.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. "strongly condemns the attack," and the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou "is making every effort to account for U.S. citizens in the city."

Video from the attack scene:

Video from attack location in Ouagadougou, Jan. 15, 2016
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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.