At least one Indian man was among the 63 hostages evacuated on Saturday from a hotel in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, that was attacked by suspected Islamist militants.
Sixty-three hostages, including 33 wounded, were evacuated in the early hours of Saturday, communication minister Remis Dandjinou told AFP.
“There are some dead but we don’t have the numbers. The assault is ongoing with the Burkinabe forces supported by French special forces,” Dandjinou said, adding that amongst those rescued was labour minister Clement Sawadogo.
Information about the Indian man as one of the hostages came to light after a concerned friend, Gaurav Garg, took to Twitter to seek help from external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. Garg said his friend Viraj was “stuck in Splendid Hotel” that was besieged by al Qaeda-linked gunmen..
In his first tweet, Garg said he was staying in Bravia Hotel in Burkina Faso, in vicinity of the hotel under attack, and sought immediate help.
@SushmaSwaraj Hi Mam , I am currently in Burkina Faso nearby Splendid Hotel . I am in Bravia Hotel requesting you to help NO: +22665932161— gaurav garg (@gangsta_gaurav) January 16, 2016
He later said his friend Viraj was among the hostages in Splendid Hotel.
After his second tweet went without any response, Hindustan Times decided to intervene. We sent out a tweet about an Indian man being stuck in the hotel under attack to Sushma Swaraj’s Twitter handle.
However, by miraculous luck, Viraj was rescued by security forces just minutes later, even before the Indian ministry of external affairs could mobilise efforts for the same — though report has not yet been confirmed.
Nonetheless, understandably relieved, Garg extended his thanks to both HT and Sushma Swaraj in another tweet.
The recent attack comes less than two months after a jihadist hostage siege at the luxury Radisson Blu Hotel in the Malian capital Bamako in November.
The head of the city’s main hospital on Friday had confirmed at least 20 dead and another 15 injured.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed responsibility for the attack, 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.
A witness also reported seeing four assailants who were of Arab descent or white appearance and “wearing turbans”.
Several attacks have taken place in Burkina Faso in recent months, but no such assaults have yet hit the capital.
The country’s troops backed by French forces are still trying to retake control of the building hours after the attack began