Hostage crisis in Western Africa – ISIL links feared

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SHAFAQNA – An ongoing hostage situation is being reported at a hotel in the city center of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, after at least three armed turbaned men began shooting at a hotel frequently used by Westerners and UN staff, according to AFP.

“It is continuing at this time. We are trying to know how many attackers they are to better coordinate our actions. Hostages have been taken. The operation could take several hours,” an officer who requested not to be named told Reuters.

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The shooting was initiated by three armed and turbaned men, an AFP journalist reported from the scene. A car was on fire outside the Splendid Hotel, he added. The property is frequently used by Westerners and UN agency staff.

A social media user from the West African country reported that a “red level” alert has been announced in the city, with an “ongoing hostage taking in Ouagadougou, deaths, wounded [and] fire.”

The user said that the city center is an “insecure area” and advised the public not to go there and “warn relatives.” He added that it is the Splendid Hotel that is “on fire.”

Suspected Islamist fighters stormed the hotel, burning cars and firing into the air, Reuters reported, citing witnesses and police sources. Security forces that arrived at the scene were involved in an intense exchange of gunfire with attackers.

A cafe popular with westerners located opposite the hotel was also targeted by the attackers, AFP reported, citing an eyewitness.

Local Burkina 24 media has also reported gunshots on Avenue Kwameh Krumah in Ouagadougou. “The reason behind the shots are still unknown,” it added on its Facebook page.

Another Twitter user, Basidou Kinda, who claims to be an “investigative journalist,” also reported “heavy gunfire in the city center,” adding that the situation in the city is “confused.”

No group has claimed responsibility for the incursion. However, it coincides with recent Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) related attacks in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, in which at least 7 people were killed, and another at an Egyptian hotel. Last November, jihadists carried out a similar attack in Burkina Faso’s neighboring Mali, killing at least 19 in a 190-room Radisson hotel in the capital city of Bamako.

The domestic situation in Burkina Faso has been tense since October 2014, when veteran President Blaise Compaore was overthrown in a five-day protest.

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