American Among 28 Dead in Burkina Faso Attack

PHOTO: Special police forces are seen during search operations following an attack by Al-Qaeda linked gunmen on January 16, 2016 in Ouagadougou. PlayAHMED OUOBA/AFP/Getty Images
WATCH Attacks on Splendid Hotel in Burkina Faso, West Africa

At least 126 people were freed and four extremists killed in a military operation after gunmen had earlier attacked a hotel that was popular with Westerners in Burkina Faso Friday evening -- in what French officials called a "terrorist attack" for which Al-Qaeda militants claimed responsibility.

Burkina Faso and French forces killed the three extremists, and they regained control of the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Minister of Security and Internal Affairs Simon Compaore said Saturday, according to The Associated Press.

A fourth extremist was killed when security forces were clearing out another hotel, said President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who added that two of the three attackers were female.

Along with the extremists, at least 28 people -- including at least one American -- were killed and dozens wounded after gunmen attacked the Splendid Hotel and a nearby cafe.

The president said that the 23 people who died were from up to 18 countries.

"We appeal to the people to be vigilant and brave because we must fight on," said Kabore.

PHOTO: In this image taken from video from AP Television, a freed woman, center, walks past French special forces near the Splendid Hotel, early Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.AP Television via AP
In this image taken from video from AP Television, a freed woman, center, walks past French special forces near the Splendid Hotel, early Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Eyewitnesses said two car bombs went off outside the Splendid around 8:30 p.m. local time.

The State Department identified the American killed in the attack as Michael James Riddering.

Carol Boyle, Riddering's mother-in-law, told The Associated Press the 45-year-old was a missionary. She said he was in the Cappuccino Cafe to meet a group that was going to volunteer at the orphanage and women's crisis center he ran with his wife, Amy Boyle-Riddering. Riddering was in the cafe with a pastor, and when the attack started they ran in different directions, Boyle said, and it wasn't until a family friend found him in the morgue that they knew he was dead.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming its fighters broke into the hotel's restaurant.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.