Security forces battled suspected Al-Qaeda fighters on 15 January, who were holding hostages at the Splendid Hotelin Burkina Faso's capital, gendarmes and witnesses said. The gunmen stormed the hotel in Ouagadougou's business district, burning cars outside and firing in the air to drive back crowds before security forces arrived, prompting an intense exchange of gunfire.
The hotel is sometimes used by French troops assigned to Operation Barkhane, a Chad-based force set up to combat Islamist militants across Africa's vast, arid Sahel region. Reuters reported a witness saw gunmen emerge from the hotel and fire into the air. A vehicle carrying security personnel arrived and shortly afterwards an intense gun battle began.
The landlocked West African state has endured bouts of political turmoil since October 2014 when veteran President Blaise Compaore was overthrown during mass protests. But it has been largely spared violence by Islamist militants who have staged attacks in Mali, a country with which it shares 375-mile border. The attack would be the first in Burkina's capital by Islamists in a country that is religiously diverse, with a population that is about 60% Muslim, according to government figures.
The French embassy in December warned its citizens against travelling to a national park in eastern Burkina Faso after reports that Malian jihadists were threatening to kidnap foreigners. In May 2015, Al-Mourabitoun – another Islamist terror group – said it was holding a Romanian man kidnapped from a mine in northern Burkina Faso the previous month.