Nov 22, 2015

Gunmen Take 170 People Hostage At Radisson Hotel In Mali (Read full Details)

Gunmen stormed a hotel on Friday (Nov. 20) in the Malian capital of Bamako and held 140 guests and 30 staff members hostage, with at least three people reportedly killed.

Malian special forces subsequently stormed the hotel, and 80 of the hostages managed to escape.

“Our special forces have freed hostages and 30 others were able to escape on their own,” Salif Traore, Mali’s security minister, told AFP. The death toll is likely to rise, with reports of many bodies in the hotel. In a statement at 13:45 CET (7:45am ET), the owner of the hotel said 125 guests and 13 employees are still in the building.
“The police and security forces helped us get out the building. There are still lots of people in there. I also saw bodies in the lobby, It was absolutely horrible,” a freed hostage told freelance journalist Fran├žois Rihouay (translation by the Guardian).

Northern Mali was taken over by Islamist militants in 2012, and although they were ousted by a French-led multinational force, the groups have since staged a number of attacks on civilians, UN peacekeepers, and the Malian military.

Before the Malian counter-assault, the attackers released some hostages who were able to recite Quranic verses, according to Reuters.

Earlier, The Rezidor Hotel Group, which operates the Radisson Blu Hotel in the western part of the city, sent this statement to Quartz:

[The company] is 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. Our safety & security teams and our corporate team are in constant contact with the local authorities in order offer any support possible to re-instate safety and security at the hotel. At this point we do not have further information and continue to closely monitor the situation.

The situation started early on Friday, a security source told Reuters. “Very early in the morning there was gunfire. Apparently it’s an attempt to take hostages,” the security source told the news agency. “The police are there and are sealing off the area.”

The Radisson Hotel, which has 190 rooms, is popular with tourists. There was reportedly a UN function being held at the hotel when reports say gunmen entered the hotel with diplomatic cars and took over the seventh floor and were firing down the corridor. Witnesses say 10 gunmen armed with AK-47s w involved in the attack.

“They were in car with a diplomatic license plate. They were masked. At the gate of the hotel, the guard stopped them and they start firing. We fled,” a guard at the hotel told the BBC.

The local US embassy confirmed the incident on its Facebook page and warned American citizens to “shelter in place” and “contact their families.”

There are also reports that 10 Chinese citizens are trapped inside the hotel, the Chinese embassy in Mali told (link in Chinese) a reporter. French citizens are also believed to be held in the hotel, a source told Reuters. Meanwhile, a spokesman from the Indian ministry of external affairs tweeted that Indian nationals were guests at the Radisson as well.

#MaliAttack : Acc’g to current info there are 20 Indians staying in the hotel. Our Amb is continuously in touch with them & monitor’g sitn

— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) November 20, 2015

This is the second hostage situation at a hotel in Mali in recent months. In August, 13 people died after gunmen took over a hotel in Sevare, a town in central Mali. Among the dead were five UN workers.

French president Fran├žois Hollande has issued a statement of support to Mali, a former French colony:

I want to assure all Malians of our solidarity and support for them and I urge all French nationals who are in the affected area to be vigilant at this time.

In October, a jihadist leader in Mali linked with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), reportedly called for further attacks against France, which is helping the government fight extremists in the country.

Credit: Quartz Africa

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