More than 100 hostages have been rescued from a hotel in Burkina Faso where al-Qaeda attack left at least 23 people dead.
Two women were among the militants who stormed the four-star Splendid Hotel and a nearby café late on Friday night, detonating bombs that set surrounding cars on fire.
Simon Compaore, the interior minister, said the siege was over by 8am local time on Saturday morning, with 126 people rescued and three attackers killed.
Troops carrying out searches at the nearby Yibi Hotel this morning found and killed a fourth attacker.
Heavy gunfire had been reported early on Saturday morning as forces from Burkina Faso, France and the US battled militants believed to be from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the allied al-Murabitoun group.
Security forces re-taking the hotel found it was rigged with explosives, slowing their process.
“What's making our job more difficult is that they've rigged the access to the upper floors,” the Burkinabe officer said.
The hotel is popular with Western visitors, United Nations workers, diplomats and and French soldiers based in Burkina Faso for Operation Barkhana, which is fighting Islamist militants across the Sahel region.
A doctor who treated some of those wounded in the attack said they had told him that the attackers appeared to target Westerners and officials said the victims were from 18 different countries.
A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said officials were monitoring the situation closely.
“We are not aware of any British Nationals being caught up in the terrorist attack in Ouagadougou but are urgently looking into whether any have been affected," she added.
Russia’s Honorary Council in Burkina Faso, Anna Rachina-Kulibali, told Tass news agency the Cappuccino Café is owned by a Ukrainian citizen.
“There are foreigners [among the dead], possibly Europeans and locals,” she added.
At least 10 bodies were found in the Cappuccino Café, next to the hotel in Ouagadougou, and there were fears the death toll would rise as security forces moved through the building.
“Three jihadists were killed. They were an Arab and two black Africans,” Mr Compaore told Reuters, adding that 33 hostages had been wounded.
Dozens of French forces arrived overnight from neighbouring Mali to aid the rescue, while at least one US military member was at the scene and the American military was giving surveillance and reconnaissance help.
“We know that the gunmen won't get out of the hotel alive,” said one witness, who gave only his first name, Gilbert. “Our country is not for jihadists or terrorists. They got it wrong.”
AQIM claimed responsibility as the gun battles continued, posting a message in Arabic on its “Muslim Africa” Telegram account.
It said fighters had “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”.
Burkina Faso hotel attack - in pictures
Burkina Faso hotel attack - in pictures
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Vehicles burn outside the Splendid Hotel
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The scene of an attack on a hotel, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
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Burkina Faso soldiers evacuate an injured man (3rd L) from the Splendid hotel during an attack on both the hotel and a restaurant by Al-Qaeda linked gunmen late on January 15, 2016.
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French troops gather by the Labour Ministry building in the surroundings of the Splendid hotel during an attack on both the hotel and a restaurant by Al-Qaeda linked gunmen on January 15, 2016.
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French soldiers take position in the surroundings of the Splendid hotel and a restaurant during an attack on both the hotel and restaurant by Al-Qaeda linked gunmen early on January 16, 2016.
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Paramedics tend to a wounded man in the surrounding of the hotel Splendide and the cafe Cappuccino during the attack on January 15, 2016.
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French first responders tend to wounded people in the surrounding of the hotel Splendide and the cafÈ Cappuccino during the attack on January 15, 2016.
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A Burkinabe soldier looks out from behind a wall before A counter-assault on Islamist gunmen at the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, January 16, 2016.
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Army forces drive near Hotel Splendid where the attackers remain with sporadic gunfire continuing in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou on Jnauary 15, 2016.
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French and US soldiers gather before launching a counter-assault on Islamist gunmen at the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, January 16, 2016.
Fighters who spoke by phone later "asserted the fall of many dead Crusaders," AQIM said, according to the SITE intelligence group.
Burkina Faso, a Muslim-majority nation in West Africa, saw a rise in violence in April when a Romanian citizen was kidnapped in an attack similar to those carried out by Islamist militants in neighbouring Mali and Niger.
The country also has been in growing political turmoil since its president of 27 years was ousted in a popular uprising in late 2014, followed by a military coup in September last year.
A transitional government returned to power until Burkina Faso's November election ushered in new leaders.
Friday's violence mirrored AQIM’s attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali in November that left 20 people dead after a seven-hour siege stopped by Malian troops backed by French and American special forces.
Additional reporting by APReuse content