At least 28 people are dead after Al Qaeda–linked militants attacked a luxury hotel overnight Friday in the West African country of Burkina Faso. Four jihadists were subsequently killed when French and Burkina Faso forces ended the siege Saturday morning, freeing more than 126 people, according to the Associated Press. The location of the attack was the 147-room Splendid Hotel in the capital city of Ouagadougou, and two of the attackers have been identified as female, according to Burkina Faso’s president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore. At least 56 people were wounded in the siege, which also targeted a neighboring cafe.
The attack was claimed by the same group, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, who stormed a luxury hotel in neighboring Mali last November, killing 20. The Splendid Hotel attack is the first of its kind in Burkina Faso, and marks an escalation in regional violence linked to Islamic extremists that has already swept through Mali and Niger. AQIM, which, according to the New York Times, was joined by an allied militant group in the attack, claimed the siege was “revenge against France and the disbelieving West,” according to a statement analyzed by jihadist propaganda experts at the SITE Intelligence Group. France maintains a small military outpost in the country, as has been heavily involved in the fight against extremists in Mali. It immediately sent soldiers to assist Burkina Faso forces in ending the siege in Ouagadougou, aided by at least one American military member. The U.S. maintains a drone base in the country.
Burkina Faso has experienced political turmoil following the removal of the country’s former dictator via a public uprising in 2014, but jihadist violence only started in the mostly Muslim country last year, and until Friday had comprised only kidnappings and minor attacks along the country’s border with Mali. In addition to the hotel attack Friday night, two Austrian relief workers were reportedly kidnapped in northern Burkina Faso on Saturday as well, though its not yet know if the events are linked. The hotel attack in Ouagadougou included at least two car bombs, according to the Times, which also marks a tactical escalation for militants in the country. A previous planned attack was broken up by Burkina Faso security forces in November.