OUAGADOUGOU – Heavy gunfire erupted early Saturday as forces from Burkina Faso and France worked to overtake a luxury hotel that had
been seized by al-Qaeda militants the night before, seizing and killing an unknown number of hostages. At least 10 bodies had been found in the aftermath so far, a government minister said.
The harrowing attack was launched by the same extremists behind a similar siege at an upscale hotel in the Malian capital back in November that left 20 dead. It was not immediately known how many people remained inside the hotel as the morning call to prayer signaled a new day in this West African nation. Dozens of French forces arrived overnight from neighboring Mali to aid the rescue. One US military member was embedded with French forces on the scene of the attack, and the United States was working to help provide France with surveillance and reconnaissance help, according to a US senior defense official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The local al-Qaeda affiliate known as AQIM claimed responsibility online as the attack was ongoing in downtown Ouagadougou at the 147-room Splendid Hotel, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.