Terror has once again fallen upon the nation of Africa.
Only a week after the Islamic State took credit for a series of attacks on popular resorts along the Red Sea, gunman reportedly associated with Al Qaeda attacked a high-end hotel frequented by Westerners in the west African capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, on Friday night according to the BBC.
According to the reports, masked assailants forced their way into the Ouagadougou hotel, as car bombs detonated outside, and began to take individuals inside the hotel hostage.
Multiple sources have reported that 20 individuals, whose identities and nationalities have not been identified, were killed during the incident and that a shoot-out between security forces and the attackers ensued during an attempt to retrieve hostages.
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Witnesses have since claimed that four to six “light-skinned” attackers wearing turbans were holding individuals hostage inside the Splendid Hotel in the Burkina Faso capital.
American and French troops stationed in the area joined local security forces early Saturday morning in an attempt to rescue the remaining hostages and claimed to have circled the hotel for several hours for vantage points before engaging their targets.
The attacks are credited to the regional Al Qaeda affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – who also goes by the acronym AQIM. This specific group usually focuses its operations in Mali and Algeriam, but has recently expanded its terror operation in an attempt to target Westerners in the region.
Witnesses claim that the masked gunmen were seeking out Westerners and UN staff that typically visit a cafe adjacent to the Splendid Hotel (Cappuccino cafe) which is where the attackers entered. An employee that worked at the cafe admitted to the Agence France Presse that “several people” had been killed within the cafe.
The New York Times has reported that it is the first time that the regional Al Qaeda affiliate has extended its terror into the African country – a fact that should concern international leaders who continue to attempt to contain and prevent the threat of terrorism throughout the globe.
Burkina Faso first gained its independence from France in 1960, but is still home to a French military base, along with a United States drone base. It is a landlocked country that populates nearly 18 million people. Despite the presence of French and American military in the region, the attack by the Al Qaeda affiliate illuminates the extent these terror groups are willing to go to in order to instill fear in Westerners that travel to the area.
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The BBC report also mentioned that The SITE intelligence group, which studies and analysis jihadist networks, specified that a group named al-Murabitoun, who merged with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghred just last month, was also involved in the attacks. The group is said to be based in the Sahara desert and is populated by extremists loyal to a veteran Algerian militant named Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
The attack may have been encouraged by a speech from an AQIM official back in December, who prompted Muslims in the nation of Burkina Faso to participate in jihad.
A statement from Al Qaeda following the events claims its purpose was “to punish the Cross-worshipers for their crimes against our people in Central Africa, Mali and other lands of the Muslims, and to avenge our Prophet, God’s peace and blessings be upon him.”
As of 1:00 am Eastern time, CNN has reported that 63 hostages taken by the Al Qaeda assailants, including 33 wounded, have been evacuated from the hotel.
(AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)