At least 29 people were killed and around 150 others injured when suspected al-Qaeda militants launched an attack on a hotel frequented by Westerners in the capital of Burkina Faso Friday.
Burkina Faso’s Security Minister Simon Compaore announced on Saturday night local time that the death toll in Ouagadougou had risen to 29, according to Agence France-Press (AFP).
Earlier on Saturday, the French government released a statement reporting at least 27 had been killed in Ouagadougou.
The statement added that no French nationals were killed in the attack, but that French forces continued to assist Burkina Faso to identify victims. A French national was injured during the incident, the government said.
The victims included citizens of Canada, Switzerland, France, and the U.S.
Six Canadians died in the attack, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Saturday in a statement. Trudeau condemned the attacks and offered condolences to the families and friends of the victims.
“We are deeply saddened by these senseless acts of violence on innocent civilians,” Trudeau said in the statement, adding that Canada has offered to help in the “investigation of this terrible crime.”
Switzerland’s foreign ministry announced Saturday in a statement that two Swiss nationals were among the victims of Friday’s assault.
“We demand that every effort is made to find the perpetrators of these attacks and to hold them accountable,” Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter said in the statement. “Our thoughts are at this moment with the families and relatives of the victims.”
A spokesperson for the French Ministry of Defense confirmed to BuzzFeed News that two French Nationals were among the dead.
American missionary Mike Riddering also died in the attack, the U.S. State Department confirmed Saturday.
“We stand with the Burkinabe people against terrorism and extremism,” the State Department also said in a statement.
Saturday, Riddering’s wife Amy Boyle Riddering wrote on Facebook that “heaven has gained a warrior!”
“My heart is so heavy and I am having trouble believing he is gone,” Amy continued. “Mike was an example in the way he lived and loved.”
Authorities said the death toll could climb.
On Friday, Burkina Faso Defense Ministry spokesperson Abi Ouattara told BuzzFeed News by phone from the capital that “casualties could increase because we have more than 30 wounded, so it’s a fluid situation. We haven’t yet determined all the nationalities either.”
Counter-attack security operations launched on both the Splendid Hotel and the neighboring Hotel Yibi had been wrapped up, Ouattara said, with four militants killed during the hours-long siege. The militants included two men and two women, AP reported.
Witnesses said multiple gunmen stormed the hotel in downtown Ouagadougou under the cover of darkness, taking hostages and setting off car bombs. Images from the scene showed multiple vehicles in flames.
“Lots of people left their cars and motorcycles and ran. They [attackers] set fire to the vehicles. They also fired on the Cappuccino Restaurant across from the hotel before setting it on fire,” Vital Nounayon, a waiter at a restaurant across the street, told Reuters.
Security forces launched an assault to reclaim the hotel early Saturday morning, entering the hotel’s lobby which appeared to be on fire from an explosion. Agence France-Presse reported 63 hostages had been released, including 33 who were wounded.
On Friday, the director of a nearby hospital said his facility had seen at least 20 people killed in the attack.
“For the dead, we do not have a precise figure, but there are at least 20 dead,” Robert Sangare, the head of Yalgado Ouedraogo hospital, told AFP. “We have had at least 15 wounded with bullet wounds and others who suffered injuries during the panic to escape.”
The Interior Minister said “about 10 bodies” were found on a restaurant terrace near the hotel, Reuters reported.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack on their “Muslim Africa” Telegram account, the Associated Press reported, saying fighters “are now entrenched and the clashes are continuing with the enemies of the religion.”
The U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou issued a curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. and warned Americans to avoid the downtown area until further notice.
In a separate development, Minister of Security and Internal Affairs Simon Compaore said an Australian doctor and his wife were kidnapped by extremists in the country’s north near its border with Mali, the Associated Press reported.
The jihadists abducted the two from the town of Djibo, located in the Soum province of Burkina Faso’s Sahel region. A local reporter told the AP that the couple had lived in Burkina Faso since 1972.
This story has been updated to reflect a correction from Burkina Faso’s minister of security internal affairs, who clarified that the abducted couple was from Australia, not Austria.
This is a developing story. Check back soon for updates and follow @BuzzFeedNews on Twitter.
- WhatsApp will start sharing its users' phone numbers with parent company Facebook, which means you could see more targeted ads on Facebook 📲 👀