An hours-long attack by militants on a luxury hotel in Burkina Faso's capital has left approximately 20 victims dead. An early-morning assault by security forces killed four attackers and freed 126 hostages, officials say.
The attack on the upscale Splendid Hotel and a nearby cafe began Friday night as gunman stormed the building. The hotel is popular with Westerners, NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports.
On Saturday, Burkina Faso security forces took back the hotel:
"Explosions could be heard as Burkinabe commandos, reportedly assisted by French special forces, launched an early morning assault on the Splendid to free the hostages," Ofeibea says.
Officials say they freed 126 people, from 18 different countries. They also report that they killed four militants — two of them reportedly women.
The militant group al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, has claimed responsibility for the attack, the SITE Intelligence Group reports.
In November, AQIM and another extremist organization claimed joint responsibility for a deadly assault on the Radisson Blu Hotel in the capital of nearby Mali.
The Associated Press reports that, until recently, Burkina Faso had relatively safe from such attacks:
"Burkina Faso, a largely Muslim country, had for years been largely spared from the violence carried out by Islamic extremist groups who were abducting foreigners for ransom in Mali and Niger. Then last April, a Romanian national was kidnapped in an attack that was the first of its kind in Burkina Faso.
"The country also has been in growing political turmoil since its longtime president was ousted in a popular uprising in late 2014. Last September members of a presidential guard launched a coup that lasted only about a week. The transitional government returned to power until Burkina Faso's November election ushered in new leaders."