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Battle rages for Burkina Faso hotel as suspected Islamists kill at least 20

Storyline:National News, World

At least 20 people died and others were taken hostage when suspected Islamist gunmen stormed a hotel in the capital of Burkina Faso and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed responsibility.

Security forces began an assault to reclaim the Splendid Hotel in the early hours of Saturday and entered its lobby, part of which was on fire, said a Reuters witness, who later saw them enter the hotels upper floors amid bursts of gunfire.

The hotel is frequented by Westerners, which may have made it a target for the militants.

About 30 hostages including the labor minister were freed while around 33 people have been taken to hospital with injuries, said Minister of Communications Remis Dandjinou. No one has said publicly how many people might be in the hotel.

The Friday evening attack was the first time militants have assaulted the capital of Burkina Faso and comes as a setback to efforts by African governments, France and the United States to prevent attacks that have destabilized the region.

It follows a raid on a luxury hotel in Mali last November in which two attackers killed 20 people, including citizens of Russia, China and the United States. There have been many attacks by militants in other countries in West Africa in recent years and the vast majority of those killed have been Africans.