Burkina Faso: Gunmen take hostages after storming hotel in capital Ouagadougou
The French embassy in Burkina Faso called the incident a 'terrorist attack'
Gunfire has erupted near a luxury hotel in the centre of Burkina Faso's capital city and explosions can be heard, witnesses have said.
The gunmen have taken an unknown number of hostages after attacking Hotel Splendide and cin downtown Ouagadougou late on Friday, a senior official with the national gendarmes said.
"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," the officer said, asking not to be named.
The gunmen stormed the four-story hotel, firing in the air to drive back crowds before security forces arrived.
An intense exchange of gunfire between the gunmen and police followed, according to a Reuters witness.
Several cars were ablaze outside the hotel, an Associated Press reporter near the scene on Friday said.
A video purportedly of the Hotel Splendide on fire, appears to show flaming cars in the streets.
Reports over Twitter suggest a cafe-restaurant opposite the hotel, which is popular with westerners, has also been targeted.
The French embassy in Burkina Faso have called the incident a "terrorist attack" and have called on people in the area to "go home".
Gilles Thibault, the French Ambassador to Burkina Faso, repeated the assertion on Twitter.
The U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou tweeted: "We are closely following the situation downtown."
The hotel is sometimes used by French troops with Operation Barkhane, a force based in Chad and set up to combat Islamist militants across Africa's vast, arid Sahel region.
It is not immediately clear who is behind the attack, though jihadists have attacked hotels before in neighbouring Mali, including an attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in November killing 20 people.
Two militants killed 20 people from nations including Russia, China and the United States at the luxury hotel in Mali's capital on 20 November, before being killed by the security forces.
Burkina Faso has endured bouts of political turmoil since 2014 when veteran President Blaise Compaore was overthrown in a popular protest.
Independent News Service