At least 27 killed as jihadists storm luxury hotel

•Radison Blu hotel under attack by jihadists armed with AK-47s and hand grenades in Malian capital of Bamako
•Up to 10 gunmen have taken dozens of hostages inside the Radisson hotel while 80 people have escaped unharmed
•Gunmen spoke in English and tested hostages' knowledge of the Koran before allowing Muslim hostages to leave
•Pentagon confirms that all 22 American nationals were rescued and unhurt following the hotel crisis
•US Special Forces led elite operation to clear the building one floor at a time amid deadly hostage crisis
•At least 27 people have been killed including a Belgian diplomat and a French national and the US embassy have urged American nationals to 'shelter in place' from attack

 

UPDATE:  Screaming "Allahu Akbar" and wielding AK47s and grenades, jihadi gunmen struck yet again as a Western hotel used by business people, diplomats and airline crews in Bamako, Mali, fell victim to a terrorist assault.

The number of casualties remains unclear, but according UN peacekeepers stationed in the city, at least 27 people were killed in the attack, which turned into a day-long siege at the Radisson Blu, a luxury hotel in the city centre.

The security ministry said gunmen continued to hold out against special forces on the top floors of the seven-storey building, but said two terrorists had been killed and all remaining hostages were now free.

It was still unclear how many had taken part in the raid that began just after 7am. Initial reports suggested that 10 attackers were involved. Malian state television reported that 76 hostages, some of them injured, had been freed but that gunmen were still holed up in the hotel.

The attack was the latest in a growing list on soft civilian targets around the world that lack the security to withstand determined terrorists prepared to die.

It came within a week of last Friday's deadly strikes on central Paris, which left 130 dead, and gives further currency to the fear that it is almost impossible to guard against such incidents.

There was speculation that killings and the atrocity in Paris could be linked.

"It would not be surprising if local groups had been inspired by the Paris attacks and that prompted them to act now," said Paul Melly, an associate fellow at Chatham House's Africa programme. "It is possible that they believed now was the time to make a public statement."

The Islamist group al-Mourabitoun, which earlier this year briefly pledged its loyalty to Isis before rescinding the alliance, claimed responsibility for the Bamako raid.

Led by the bearded Mokhtar Belmokhtar, it has led a string of terror attacks in North Africa, including the strike and subsequent hostage crisis at the Amenas gas plant in Algeria in January 2013, in which 39 people died.

Al-Mourabitoun is linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and said that the two groups had carried out the raid together in retaliation for "the oppression of the people of northern Mali".

The attack began soon after daybreak when at least two terrorists managed to get into the hotel lobby, reportedly killing the two security guards stationed at the entrance.

The attackers are understood to have shouted "Allahu Akbar", or God is great, as they entered the hotel, and then moved from floor to floor, taking guests and staff hostage.

Those that managed to escape said that the militants had freed people able to recite Koranic verses.

Speaking to The Independent from Bamako, Carlos Lumu, an eyewitness to the attacks, said that the raid began with a volley of gunfire.

"I'm near the hotel. I'm following the events because my girlfriend works there," he said.

"In the morning I heard a lot of gunfire, lots and lots of shots, but no explosions. I saw two people injured, being carried to the ambulances and to the hospital. The streets are empty now. There is no one on the streets."

Among the victims were Belgian diplomat Geoffrey Dieudonne and a French national, with the initial death toll likely to rise.

A body is removed from the Radisson Blu hotel, after it was stormed by gunmen during a attack on the hotel in Bamako, Mali,
A body is removed from the Radisson Blu hotel, after it was stormed by gunmen during a attack on the hotel in Bamako, Mali,

All 22 American nationals were rescued unharmed but 12 bodies have been found in the hotel's basement and a further 15 victims were discovered on the second floor by rescuers.

Three of the gunmen have been killed while the remaining terrorists have taken up positions on the hotel's roof as rescue forces, led by US Special Forces, try to finish off the gunmen. 

Several witnesses have claimed that the gunmen entered through the gates of the hotel in a car with a diplomatic number plate before opening fire with AK-47s and throwing grenades inside the building.

The gunmen were also speaking to the hostages in English, according to one who was freed.

"I heard them say in English 'Did you load it?, Let's go'," revealed Guinean singer Sekouba 'Bambino' Diabate, who was rescued by Malian security forces.

 

 

Earlier: Gunmen shouting Islamist slogans have attacked Radisson Blu hotel in Mali's capital Bamako, taking 170 people hostage.

The raid on the hotel, which lies just west of the city centre near government ministries and diplomatic offices in the former French colony in Africa, comes a week after Islamic State (IS) militants killed 129 people in Paris.

During the night, more hostages appear to have left the hotel building. Most reports indicate they were freed by security forces who are combing the complex.

Ongoing reports indicate Malian forces are storming the building, it is believed the French Foreign legion, regular French army and Malian Special forces are also present outside the hotel.


Witnesses who were freed from the hotel have spoken to France24:

I was inside, I saw the dead bodies in the hall. It is horrible what is happening inside the hotel. I got out when the security forces enter the hotel."

Local radio reported that the attackers got into the heavily guarded hotel compound in a diplomatic vehicle, allowing them to avoid the usual stringent security checks, though this had not be verified.

Air France is cancelling a flights to Mali scheduled to depart this evening, Le Figaro reports.

The Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako. Picture: Tripadvisor
The Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako. Picture: Tripadvisor

Earlier: GUNMEN shouting Islamist slogans have attacked Radisson Blu hotel in Mali's capital Bamako, taking 170 people hostage.

Local media has reported five people have been killed.

The raid on the hotel, which lies just west of the city centre near government ministries and diplomatic offices in the former French colony in Africa, comes a week after Islamic State (IS) militants killed 129 people in Paris.

"Very early in the morning there was gunfire. Apparently it's an attempt to take hostages," a security source said, AFP reported.

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

The gunmen screamed "Allahu Akbar" as they entered the hotel, a security source said.

"It's all happening on the seventh floor, jihadists are firing in the corridor," the source said.

 

There are reports that seven hostages have been freed.

There are also reports that Aliko Dangote, Africa's richest businessman, was at the hotel for a meeting when the gunmen attacked. 

Six Turkish Airlines staff are among those held by the gunmen, according to reports.

The number of hostages freed has now increased to 15, including three UN staff members.

Three of the six Turkish Airline staff held hostage later "escaped", according to Sky News.

Meanwhile, the Australian High Commission in Accra is making "urgent enquiries" about whether they have any nationals in the country, according to an ABC reporter.

 

There is very confused information about what is happening at the hotel right now, two Malian and a French citizen are being reported as dead by France24

One source said as many as 10 gunmen had stormed the building.

At least two private security guards have been injured in the attack, a head security guard said.

Islamist groups have waged 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.

Mali hotel siege: Five killed, at least 170 held hostage

ALMOST 200 people are being held hostage in a hotel in Mali's capital after armed gunmen stormed a Raddison Blu hotel in Mali.

The unidentified men attacked the hotel in the country's capital of Bamako at around 8am on Friday (local time).

"They have locked in about 140 guests and about 30 employees," a spokesperson for the hotel, owned by the Carlson Rezidor group, told NBC. "So the hotel is locked down and there is no possibility to go out or come in."

 

Local news reports claim the gunmen arrived at the hotel in a vehicle with a diplomatic pass. There have been reports as many as five people were killed.

"Very early in the morning there was gunfire. Apparently it's an attempt to take hostages. The police are there and are sealing off the area," a security source told Reuters.

In a release, the US embassy said there was an "active shooter operation at the Radisson Hotel." It advised people to contact their families and monitor local media for updates.

The hotel, which has around 120 rooms, is well known in the city and is popular with both foreign tourists and companies. 

In a release, the US embassy said there was an "active shooter operation at the Radisson Hotel." It advised people to contact their families and monitor local media for updates.

The hotel, which has around 190 rooms, is well known in the city and is popular with both foreign tourists and companies. There are indications the hotel was "90 per cent" full when the attack commenced, however, The Independent has been unable to verify these claims.

It comes following another hostage situation in August in the central Malian town of Sevare. Suspected Islamic gunmen killed 13 people, including five United Nations workers, during a siege.

A former French colony, UN peacekeepers have controlled security in Mali since 2013.

Islamic extremists, who have been linked to al-Qeada, made gains in the country's north from 2012. After defeating government forces, the militants imposed harsh Islamic law across the desert region until an ostensive defeat in 2013.

Despite this, in a report in April of this year Human Rights Watch characterised the region as "devoid of state authority in which Tuareg separatists, Islamist armed groups, pro-government militias and bandits have committed abuses with impunity". 



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