Eighty hostages held by Islamist gunmen have been freed from a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital as government special forces moved floor by floor to clear the building, Reuters reports, citing the country’s state broadcaster and a security source.
Malian special forces have entered the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, to end a siege by gunmen who had been holding 170 people hostage.
“The attackers are still inside. We’re hearing gunfire from time to time,” said a witness outside the Radisson Blu hotel.Gunmen have launched an attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in the centre of Mali’s capital, Bamako, the BBC reports.
The hotel’s owners said that two people had locked in 140 guests and 30 employees, the AFP news agency reports its statement as saying.
Police have surrounded the hotel, which the gunmen entered shooting, and shouting “God is great!” in Arabic, a security source told Reuters.
A BBC reporter says the US-owned hotel is popular with expats working in Mali.
In August, suspected Islamist gunmen killed 13 people, including five UN workers, during a hostage siege at a hotel in the central Malian town of Sevare.
France, the former colonial power in Mali, intervened in the country in January 2013 when al-Qaeda-linked militants threatened to march on Bamako after taking control of the north of the country.
The US embassy in Bamako has tweeted that it “is aware of an ongoing active shooter operation at the Radisson Hotel”.
All US citizens were asked “to shelter in place” and “encouraged to contact their families”.
“It’s all happening on the seventh floor, jihadists are firing in the corridor,” a security source told AFP.
Some reports say about 10 gunmen in total are believed to be involved in the incident.
The Rezidor Hotel Group, which owns the Radisson Blu, said it was aware of “the hostage-taking that is ongoing at the property today”.
The UN force in Mali took over responsibility for security in the country from French and African troops in July 2013, after the main towns in the north had been recaptured from the Islamist militants.