Jihadists who took about 170 people hostage at the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali, have launched a shooting rampage. At least three people have been killed. Security forces and journalists could hear automatic weapons fire from outside the hotel. According to BBC, Malian special forces have stormed into the 190-room luxury hotel, which is popular with expats.
Jihadists release more than 20 hostages
Eyewitnesses said the gunmen were shouting “Allah is great” in Arabic. A Malian army commander told the Associated Press that the militants have freed more than 20 hostages. Those who could recite the verses of the Koran were being released, reports Reuters. Radisson said two persons wearing masks had locked in 140 guests and 30 hotel employees. However, some eyewitnesses claimed that there were “five to 13” gunmen.
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At least 20 Indians were staying at the hotel, and they are among hostages. A Chinese guest told the state-run Xinhua news agency that he was among seven Chinese tourists trapped inside the hotel in Mali. The Chinese hostage also filmed a video using his smartphone from a hotel room he was locked inside, showing the surroundings of the hotel. At least six Turkish Airlines staff members were also staying at the hotel. French citizens were also in the hotel, said Reuters.
Mali still grappling with Islamist attacks
Eyewitnesses said the gunmen were jihadists who entered the hotel compound in a car with diplomatic plates. When the security guards at the gate of the hotel tried to stop them, they started firing and severely injured three guards. All the gunmen were on the seventh floor, a security official told AFP. In August, suspected Islamists had killed 13 people at another hotel in the central Malian town of Sevare.
Islamist groups in Mali have continued their killing spree despite a peace deal with militants and pro-government armed groups in June. Al-Qaeda linked jihadist groups had captured much of northern Mali in early 2012. But France, the former colonial power in Mali, launched a military offensive in January 2013 to oust the militant groups.