Three killed as gunmen seize 170 hostages at Radisson Blu hotel in Mali capital

news
20 November 2015

Close on the heels of the shooting of 129 people in Paris by Islamic State (IS) militants, gunmen shouting Islamic slogans attacked a hotel in Mali, the former French colony, who went on a shooting spree at the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in Mali's capital Bamako early in the morning and seized 170 guests and staff.

Gunmen stormed the hotel screaming Allahu Akbar or "God is great" in Arabic before firing on the guards and taking hostages. The hostages include 140 guests and 30 employees.

Two Malian citizens and a French citizen died in the raid on the hotel, which lies just west of the city centre near government ministries and diplomatic offices in the former French colony.

Fifteen Indians are among the 170 hostages at Radisson hotel, NDTV quoted government sources as saying. The hostages are reported to be safe.

At least seven Chinese hostages are trapped in the Mali siege, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua. French nationals also among those held in hotel siege, ITV says.

Mali security forces have evacuated around a dozen hostages from hotel, according to ministry sources.

Security forces have also escorted two women from besieged Bamako hotel, according to AFP.

Reports said around 20 hostages have been freed. A security source said some of the hostages had been freed after being made to recite verses from the Koran.

Security sources said the gunmen were "jihadists" who had entered the hotel compound in a car with a diplomatic number plate.

Automatic weapons fire could be heard from outside the 190-room hotel in the city-centre, where security forces have set up a security cordon.

"It's all happening on the seventh floor, jihadists are firing in the corridor," AFP quoted security sources as saying.

Malian soldiers, police and special forces were on the scene as a security perimeter was set up, along with members of the UN's MINUSMA peacekeeping force in Mali and the French troops fighting jihadists in West Africa under Operation Barkhane.

Malian security forces take position near the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako.

The Rezidor Hotel Group, the US-based parent company of Radisson Blu, said two people were holding 170 people hostage.

The company said it was "aware of the hostage-taking that is ongoing at the property today, 20th November 2015. As per our information two persons have locked in 140 guests and 30 employees".

It added in a statement, "Our safety and security teams and our corporate team are in constant contact with the local authorities in order to offer any support possible to reinstate safety and security at the hotel."

The shooting at the Radisson follows a nearly 24-hour siege and hostage-taking at another hotel in August in the central Malian town of Sevare in which five UN workers were killed, along with four soldiers and four attackers.

Five people, including a French citizen and a Belgian, were also killed in an attack at a restaurant in Bamako in March in the first such incident in the capital.

Islamist groups have continued to wage attacks in Mali despite a June peace deal between former Tuareg rebels in the north of the country and rival pro-government armed groups.

Northern Mali fell in March-April 2012 to Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist groups long concentrated in the area before being ousted by an ongoing French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

Despite the peace deal, large swathes of Mali remain beyond the control of government and foreign forces.

In August, Malian security forces stormed a hotel used by United Nations staff and freed four hostages held there by suspected Islamist militants during a nearly 24-hour siege in which 12 people died.

About 1,000 French troops remain in the country. The Netherlands also has troops working with the UN mission in Mali.

According to the Dutch defence ministry, 450 Dutch military personnel are taking part in the mission along with four Apache and three Chinook helicopters.

Most of the Dutch force is based in Gao, but there are a few officers at the UN mission headquarters in Bamako.





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