Islamist gunmen stormed a luxury hotel packed with foreigners in Mali’s capital Bamako on Friday, taking 170 hostages in a former French colony that has been battling rebels allied with al Qaeda for several years.
A senior security source said some of the hostages had been freed after being made to recite verses from the Koran. The French newspaper Le Monde quoted the Malian security ministry as saying at least three hostages had been killed.
Two Malian citizens and a French citizen have died in the incident, a U.N. official told CNN.
The raid on the Radisson Blu hotel, which lies just west of the city center near government ministries and diplomatic offices in the former French colony, comes a week after Islamic State militants killed 129 people in Paris.
Automatic weapons fire could be heard from outside the 190-room hotel, where security forces have set up a security cordon.
The identity of the Bamako gunmen, or the group to which they belong, is not known.
Northern Mali was occupied by Islamist fighters, some with links to al Qaeda, for most of 2012. They were driven out by a French-led military operation, but sporadic violence has continued in Mali’s central belt on the southern reaches of the Sahara, and in Bamako.
The security source said as many as 10 gunmen had stormed the building, firing shots and shouting “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is great” in Arabic. The hotel’s head of security said two private security guards had been injured in the early stages of the attack, which began at 7 a.m.
A French presidential source said French citizens were in the hotel, there are many French and Dutch troops stationed in Mali. The Chinese state news agency Xinhua said several Chinese tourists were among those trapped inside the building. Turkish Airlines also said it had six staff inside.
Alfousséni Sidibe, an office worker in Bamako, said the Radisson was the choice of diplomats and politicians for meetings and normally heavily-guarded, writes Aislinn Laing.
“This is one of the biggest hotels in Mali and because of the mining conference, I believe there are many people inside,” he told The Telegraph.
“The security police and gendarme are all rushing there. Life in Bamako is normally peaceful so this is a big shock for everyone.” – Reuters/Telegraph
UPDATE: VIA France24
73 Hostages released or escaped from besieged Mali Hotel: security minister
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