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    Gunfire, explosions in 'terror attack' at Burkina Faso hotel

    Ouagadougou (AFP) - Gunshots and explosions were heard coming from one of Ouagadougou's main hotels and a nearby restaurant on Friday night, with a witness saying several people had been killed in what the French embassy called a terrorist attack.

    Around 10 vehicles were on fire in the street where the four-star Splendid hotel and the Cappuccino restaurant opposite -- both popular with United Nations staff and westerners -- are located in a busy, central area of Burkina Faso's capital not far from the international airport.

    The attack comes less than two months after a jihadist hostage siege at the luxury Radisson Blu Hotel in the Malian capital Bamako in November, in which 20 people died including 14 foreigners.

    A Cappuccino staff member, reached by telephone by AFP, said several people had been killed at the restaurant, without being able to give an exact toll.

    Witnesses said attackers were still holed up in the 147-room hotel, while sporadic exchanges of fire could be heard between the assailants and security forces.

    Three men clad in turbans at one point fired at the scene on Avenue Kwame Nkrumah, one of Ouagadougou's main thoroughfares.

    A witness also reported seeing four assailants who were of Arab or white appearance and "wearing turbans."

    The Burkinabe army meanwhile revealed that an armed group had carried out an attack earlier in the day near the border with Mali, killing two people.

    "In the afternoon around 2:00 pm (1400 GMT), around 20 heavily-armed unidentified individuals carried out an attack against gendarmes in the village of Tin Abao," the army said in a statement, adding that an officer and a civilian had been killed and two more gendarmes wounded.

    Last month, Burkina Faso swore in Roch Marc Christian Kabore as president, completing the troubled West African state's transition after the overthrow of its longtime ruler, Blaise Compaore in 2014 and a failed coup attempt in September.

    Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in October 2014, when Compaore sought to extend his rule, forcing him to step down after ruling the poor, landlocked country with an iron fist for 27 years.

    Kabore, 58, becomes only the third civilian president of the nine who have held power since the country's independence from France in 1960.

    Gunfire, explosions in 'terror attack' at Burkina Faso hotel

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    Reports now that hotel is surrounded, hostages inside.

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    At least 20 dead in Burkina Faso hotel attack: hospital chief

    Ouagadougou (AFP) - At least 20 people have been killed and another 15 wounded in an ongoing assault on a hotel in the capital of Burkina Faso on Friday night, a hospital chief told AFP.

    "For the dead, we do not have a precise figure, but there are at least 20 dead," said Robert Sangare, the head of Yalgado Ouedraogo hospital.

    "We have had at least 15 wounded with bullet wounds and others who suffered injuries during the panic to escape."

    Source AFP

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    Siege over at Burkina Faso hotel, separate assault ongoing

    Ouagadougou (AFP) - Security forces in Burkina Faso ended a siege at hotel and a restaurant that were stormed by Al Qaeda linked gunmen, killing three jihadists and freeing 126 people, but another assault was ongoing at second hotel nearby.

    A security source said at least 22 people were killed in the jihadists' assaults on the Burkinabe capital's four-star Splendid hotel and the nearby Capuccino restaurant, which are popular with UN staff and foreigners.

    Thirty-three of the 126 people freed from the Splendid hotel by Burkinabe troops backed by French special forces were wounded.

    "The attacks on the Splendid Hotel and the Cappuccino are over. But an assault is ongoing at the Hotel Ybi" next to the Cappuccino, Interior Minister Simon Compaore told AFP.

    A total of "126 people, including at least 33 wounded, have been freed. Three jihadists -- an Arab and two black Africans -- have been killed," he added.

    Twenty people have been confirmed dead, but the toll could rise further as Compaore told AFP earlier in the night that firefighters had seen 10 bodies on the terrace of the restaurant.

    "We don't yet have a total tally of the dead. The Burkinabe forces are still combing the hotel," he said.

    Communication minister Remis Dandjinou told AFP the assault was carried out by Burkinabe troops with the support of French special forces. He also said that among those who escaped unharmed was Labour Minister Clement Sawadogo.

    Early Saturday, a fire raged at the main entrance of the 147-room hotel in Ouagodougou and screams could be heard from inside, while on the street outside about 10 vehicles were set alight.

    "It was horrible, people were sleeping and there was blood everywhere. They were firing at people at close range," Yannick Sawadogo, one of those who escaped, told AFP.

    "We heard them speaking and they were walking around people and firing at people who were not dead. And when they came out they started a fire."

    The attack comes less than two months after a jihadist hostage siege at the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in the Malian capital Bamako left 20 people dead, including 14 foreigners -- an attack claimed by the same Al-Qaeda affiliate behind the unfolding Ouagadougou assault.

    - 'Revenge against France' -

    The head of the city's main hospital confirmed prior to the start of the counter-assault at least 20 people had been killed.

    He quoted one of the wounded as saying there were "more white people than black" among the dead.

    Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack saying it was "revenge against France and the disbelieving West", according to a statement carried by US-based monitoring group SITE.

    The attackers were members of the Al-Murabitoun group based in Mali and run by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, SITE said.

    An AFP reporter at one point saw three men clad in turbans firing at the scene on Avenue Kwame Nkrumah, one of Ouagadougou's main thoroughfares.

    A witness also reported seeing four assailants who were of Arab or white appearance and "wearing turbans".

    - 'Odious, cowardly' -

    The French embassy said on its website earlier that a "terrorist attack" was underway and urged people to avoid the area. French President Francois Hollande in a statement condemned the "odious and cowardly attack".

    With Ouagadougou airport closed because of the attack, and an Air France flight from Paris to Ouagadougou was diverted to neighbouring Niger.

    A US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington could provide drone-based surveillance.

    The Burkinabe army, meanwhile, said a heavily-armed group of about 20 people had also carried out an attack on Friday near the border with Mali, killing two people -- a police officer and a civilian -- and leaving two others wounded.

    Several attacks have taken place in Burkina Faso in recent months, but no such assaults had hit the capital.

    In April the Romanian security chief of a mine in northern Tambao was kidnapped in a move also claimed by Belmokhtar's Al-Murabitoun group.

    Burkina Faso is part of the G5 Sahel grouping that counts the fight against terrorism as part of its remit.

    It has also offered support to France's Barkhane counter-terror mission, spanning five countries in Africa's restive Sahel region, and French special forces are stationed in Ouagadougou's suburbs.

    Last month, Burkina Faso swore in Roch Marc Christian Kabore as president, completing the troubled West African state's transition after the overthrow of its longtime ruler Blaise Compaore in 2014 and a failed coup attempt in September.

    Siege over at Burkina Faso hotel, separate assault ongoing

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