Friday, November 20, 2015

Deaths As Dozens Held Hostage In Mali Hotel


Eighty of the 153 people taken hostage by Islamic extremists at a luxury hotel in Mali have now been freed after an operation by special forces, the state broadcaster has said.

Earlier a police source said: "They've penetrated inside the hotel. The operations are under way."

Around 10 men armed with guns and grenades stormed the Radisson Blu hotel in the capital Bamako, shooting and screaming "Allahu Akbar", which means "God Is great" in Arabic.

The head of security said they arrived aboard a vehicle around 7am local time and forced their way through a security barrier.

Mali map
Bamako is in the south-west of the country

A military official said at least three people have been killed. Two security guards were injured in the assault.

Malian security services, who have surrounded the hotel, previously said they had freed around a dozen hostages.

Mali hotel siege
  Hostages Flee Hotel Siege

A security source said a further 20 were released by the gunmen after being made to recite verses from the Koran.

Two women who were among those freed told an AFP journalist they had seen the body of a fair-skinned man lying on the floor of the hotel.

Turkish Airlines said seven of its staff were among the hostages, but five including two pilots had managed to escape.

The hostages also include 20 Indians, seven Chinese and French nationals.

The owners of the hotel, which attracts many foreign visitors, said 140 guests and 13 employees had been "locked in" by two raiders.

"The Rezidor Hotel Group... is aware of the hostage-taking that is ongoing at the property today, 20th November 2015," the company said in a statement.

Mali hotel
 Tourist Films Mali Hotel Siege

"As per our information two persons have locked in 140 guests and 13 employees."

The statement added: "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 US and French embassies have asked their citizens in Bamako to take shelter, and Mali's President has cut short a visit to Chad where he was attending a regional summit.

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was "in contact with local authorities and urgently seeking further information".

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

Following a military coup in 2012, Islamic extremists took control of northern Mali, prompting a French-led military intervention the following year.
The extremists were driven from northern towns and cities, but the north remains insecure and militant attacks have extended farther south this year.

In March masked gunmen opened fire on a Bamako restaurant popular with foreigners, killing five people.
About 1,000 French troops remain in the country.

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