Thirty-three hostages have been evacuated from a hotel in the capital of Burkina Faso that was attacked by suspected Islamist militants, Minister of Communications Remis Dandjinou said on Saturday.
"Liberation of Minister (of Public Service, Labour and Social Security) Clement Sawadogo and about 30 hostages," Dandjinou said on Twitter, adding that they were taken to hospital. "The operation continues."
At least 20 dead in Burkina Faso attack
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At least 20 dead in Burkina Faso attack
Security forces launch an assault to recapture a hotel and hostages seized in an attack by Islamic militants in Burkina Faso which left 20 dead.
In another tweet he said 33 hostages were freed.
Security forces in Burkina Faso's capital of Ouagadougou had launched an assault to recapture a hotel in the capital stormed by suspected Islamist militants who took the hostages.
Two groups of security forces entered the main lobby of the Splendid Hotel five hours after the siege began and there was no gunfire as they went in.
A witness said that part of the lobby was on fire. The blaze began after commandos used explosives to enter the building, The Associated Press reports.
At least 20 people are dead and others had been taken hostage in the attack on a hotel and nearby cafe claimed by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
A US defence official said France had requested US intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance support in the city and at least one US military member in Burkina Faso was giving "advice and assistance" to French forces at the hotel.
Earlier, the government has not ruled out calling for help from French special forces stationed in the country, the country's foreign minister Alpha Barry said in a telephone interview.
Medical personnel moved the wounded away from the front of the hotel, which often plays host to western guests.
"We have received around 15 wounded people. There are people with bullet wounds and people who are injured because of falls," said Robert Sangare, director of Ouagadougou's university hospital centre.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was making inquiries with authorities in Burkina Faso to learn if any Australians were affected.
The government urged Australians to get in touch family or friends thought to be in Burkina Faso and warned against travel there at the current time.
"We recommend that Australians limit movements in the central Ouagadougou area, stay informed of any new developments, and follow the advice of local authorities," said a spokesperson for DFAT.
"We continue to advise Australians to reconsider the need to travel to Burkina Faso, including Ouagadougou."
The gunmen stormed the five-storey Splendid 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 attack would be the first by Islamist militants in the capital of Burkina Faso. It follows a deadly raid on a hotel in Mali in November and attacks by militants in other countries in west Africa.
The hotel is sometimes used by French troops with Operation Barkhane, a force based in Chad and set up to combat Islamist militants across west Africa's vast, arid Sahel region.
"It is continuing at this time. We are trying to know how many attackers they are to better co-ordinate our actions," said a senior official with the national gendarmes who asked not to be named. "Hostages have been taken. The operation could take several hours."
A Reuters 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.
"We had just opened and there were a few customers we started to serve when we heard gunshots ... There were three men shooting in the air," said Vital Nounayon, a waiter at a restaurant across the street from the hotel.
"Lots of people left their cars and motorcycles and ran. They [the attackers] set fire to the vehicles. They also fired on the Cappuccino Restaurant across from the hotel before setting it on fire," he said, adding that the attackers wore turbans.
Amateur video footage showed a burning car on an empty street in front of the hotel. Gunfire and explosions could be heard.
The landlocked west African state has endured political turmoil since October 2014 when long-time president Blaise Compaore was overthrown during mass protests and elite troops launched a one-week coup in September 2015.
But it has been largely spared violence by Islamist militants, who have staged attacks in Mali, a country with which it shares a 600-kilometre border.