Last updated: 01:46 PM ET, Sat January 16 2016

Attack on Burkina Faso Hotel Kills at Least 23

Impacting Travel | Amy Coyne Bredeson | January 16, 2016

Attack on Burkina Faso Hotel Kills at Least 23

Photo via Twitter/UlrichJvV

A terrorist group linked to al Qaeda says it is responsible for a Friday night attack on a hotel in Burkina Faso that killed at least 23 people, according to CNN.

The group took hostages and opened fire at Splendid Hotel in an attack that went on for hours, CNN reported.

The hotel in the West African nation is commonly used as a meeting place for Western diplomats in the capital of Ouagadougou, CNN said.

"Everyone was panicked and was lying down on the floor. There was blood everywhere; they were shooting at people at point blank," witness Yannick Sawadogo told CNN.

Security forces freed 126 hostages early Saturday, Burkina Faso foreign minister Alpha Barry told CNN. He said half of the hostages were sent to the hospital. Among those rescued was a government minister, state media reported to CNN.

American and French troops offered logistical support to Burkina Faso’s forces, CNN said.

At least four of the attackers, including two women, were killed, security minister Simon Compaore told CNN.

It was not clear whether the attackers’ deaths were included in the 23 killed, but the French Foreign Ministry told CNN that 27 people died in all.

CNN reported that troops with the French Foreign Ministry assisted in the rescue.

Although local media reported that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb took responsibility for the assault, CNN said it could not confirm that claim on its own.

CNN did report that the al Qaeda-linked Al-Mourabitoun said it performed the attack, which was similar to the November attack in nearby Mali.

"We had just placed our meal orders in Cafe Cappucino and around 15 minutes later we heard gunshots," a French survivor, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Associated Press

"They started to shoot at everyone. We dropped to the ground and as soon as anyone raised their heads they fired at them immediately. We had to play dead. They shook people by the foot to see if they were alive or not, and, if they were alive, they shot them."

So, how safe is it to travel to Burkina Faso?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office discourages travel to the area north of the town of Boulsa because of its proximity to the border with Mali, according to Gov.UK

Prior to Saturday’s attack, there was already a threat of terrorism in the country. A western national was abducted in the Tambau region by an armed group on April 4, 2015, there was a failed military coup on Sept. 16, 2015, and three police officers were killed Oct. 9, 2015 in an attack near the border of Mali, the website stated.

The website warned that demonstrations and strikes could happen at any time, deteriorating the security situation at a moment’s notice. The website suggested that people “remain vigilant and stay away from large public gatherings.”

It also warned that the airport and land borders could close with short notice and suggested that tourists monitor local media and their airlines for up-to-date information.


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