As many as 126 hostages, including several wounded, were evacuated today from a Burkina Faso hotel which was besieged by al Qaeda-linked gunmen, communication minister Remis Dandjinou said.
The siege ended after an hours-long counter-attack launched by security forces to rescue hostages held by the gunmen in a Burkina Faso hotel where at least 20 people have been killed., apart from three of the terrorists.
A fire raged at the main entrance and screams could be heard from inside Ouagadougou's four-star Splendid hotel, which often has UN staff among its guests and has security checks at its entrances.
The attack comes less than two months after a jihadist hostage siege at the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in Mali's capital Bamako in which 20 people died including 14 foreigners - an attack claimed by the same Al-Qaeda affiliate as the unfolding Ouagadougou assault (See: Mali hotel siege ends; Islamist militant attack leaves 27 dead).
The French ambassador to Ouagadougou Gilles Thibault announced the beginning of the assault on Twitter.
''The assault has started, the various components of the armed forces and security forces have begun their missions,'' Thibault said.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack saying it was ''revenge against France and the disbelieving West'', according to US-based monitoring group SITE.
The ''mujahideen brothers'' of AQIM ''broke into a restaurant of one of the biggest hotels in the capital of Burkina Faso, and are now entrenched and the clashes are continuing with the enemies of the religion'', SITE quoted the group as saying.
The attackers were members of the Al-Murabitoun group based in Mali and run by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, SITE said.
An AFP reporter at one point saw three men clad in turbans firing at the scene on Avenue Kwame Nkrumah, one of Ouagadougou's main thoroughfares.
A witness also reported seeing four assailants who were of Arab or white appearance and ''wearing turbans''.