At least 20 people died and others were taken hostage when Islamist gunmen stormed a hotel in the capital city of Burkina Faso on Friday, a hospital director told Reuters, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Security forces surrounded the Splendid Hotel and were awaiting orders to begin an assault to rescue the hostages and retake the building, which is frequented by Westerners, the country’s foreign minister Alpha Barry said in a telephone interview.

Medical personnel moved wounded away from the front of the hotel.

A U.S. defense official said that France had requested U.S. intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance support in the city and at least one U.S. military member in Burkina Faso was giving “advice and assistance” to French forces at the hotel.

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