80 out of 170 guests released so far
80 out of 170 guests released so far
: Gunmen went on a shooting rampage at the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in Mali's capital Bamako on Friday, seizing 170 guests and staff in an ongoing hostage-taking that has left at least three people dead.
Malian security forces are storming the hotel after the attack by "two or three" assailants, a spokesman for the security ministry told AFP.
Around 80 of 170 hostages seized have been freed, local television reported.
"Radisson hotel attack: special forces launched an operation, first hostages released, about 80," the state-run ORTM channel said on a scrolling banner, without specifying the source of the information.
"Our special forces have freed hostages and 30 others were able to escape on their own," Security Minister Salif Traore told AFP
Twenty Indian nationals are among the hostages being held at the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in Mali's capital Bamako, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said Friday.
"Our ambassador has confirmed that 20 Indians are held hostage at the hotel but they are alive," Vikas Swarup told AFP.
The foreign ministry spokesman said on Twitter that the Indian ambassador to Mali was "continuously in touch" with the hostages and monitoring the situation.
#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
The gunmen are believed to be jihadists who entered the hotel compound at around 0700 GMT in a car bearing diplomatic plates, according to security sources.
Security sources said the gunmen were jihadists who had entered the hotel compound at around 0700 GMT in a car that had diplomatic plates. Many of the guests were in their rooms when the attack began, the security ministry spokesman told AFP.
Automatic weapons fire was heard outside the 190-room hotel in the city centre, with the ministry spokesman saying at least three hostages had been killed.
Their identities were not yet known.
Chinese state news agency Xinhua said at least seven Chinese nationals were among the hostages, while Turkish Airlines said six of its staff were caught up in the attack.
"It's all happening on the seventh floor, jihadists are firing in the corridor," a security source told AFP earlier.
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.
Two freed female hostages -- a Turkish aviation worker and an Ivorian woman who was at the Radisson for an economic conference -- told AFP they saw the body of a fair-skinned man lying on the floor of the hotel.
A paramedic said three security guards had been wounded, including one who was in a critical condition after being shot. AFP's correspondent saw a police officer, who had also been shot, being evacuated by security forces.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who is in Chad for a summit of leaders from the Sahel region, is cutting his trip short and flying home, the presidency told AFP.
Attacks despite peace deal:
The Radisson attack 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 country's north and rival pro-government armed groups.
In mid-2012 the north fell under the control of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda. They supplanted Tuareg rebels and imposed a brutal interpretation of sharia law on the region, with Bamako reeling from a military coup.
The Islamists were largely ousted from towns by an ongoing French-led military operation launched in January 2013, but they have since launched sporadic attacks on security forces from desert hideouts.
Despite the peace deal, large swathes of Mali remain beyond the control of government and foreign forces.
In a recording authenticated by Malian authorities this week, a jihadist leader in Mali denounced the peace deal and called for further attacks against France, which is helping national forces fight extremists.
Malian troops outside the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, the scene of a hostage situation (Photo: AFP)
A top official at the French presidency said French citizens were in the hotel but could not give more details because their number and identities were not confirmed. The official spoke anonymously in line with presidency policy.
China's official state Xinhua News Agency quoted a Chinese guest as saying via a mobile chat app that several Chinese were among the guests trapped at the hotel.
A staffer at the Radisson Blu hotel who gave his name as Tamba Diarra said over the phone that the attackers used grenades in the assault.
Following a military coup in 2012, Islamic extremists took control of northern Mali, prompting a French-led military intervention in early 2013 that forced the extremists from northern towns and cities, though the north remains insecure and militant attacks have extended farther south this year.
In March masked gunmen shot up a restaurant in Bamako, located in Mali's south, that is popular with foreigners, killing five people.
Malian troops outside the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, the scene of a hostage situation. (Photo: AFP)