170 taken hostage as gunmen attack Radisson hotel in Mali

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Gunmen shouting Islamic slogans attacked a luxury hotel full of foreigners in Mali’s capital Bamako early on Friday morning, taking 170 people hostage, a senior security source and the hotel’s operator said.

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

The identity of the Bamako gunmen, or the group to which they belong, is not known. Northern Mali was occupied by Islamist fighters, some with links to al Qaeda, for most of 2012.

Although they were driven out by a French-led military operation, sporadic violence has continued. The security source said as many as 10 gunmen had stormed the building, firing shots and shouting “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is great” in Arabic.

The Chinese state news agency Xinhua said several Chinese tourists were among those trapped inside the building. The company that runs the hotel, Rezidor Group, said it understood that there were two gunmen.

“According to our information, two people are holding 140 clients and 30 employees,” it said in a statement quoted by the BBC.

A senior member of the hotel’s security detail said two private security guards had been injured in the early stages of the attack, which began at 7 a.m. (0700 GMT). Witnesses in the area said police had surrounded the hotel and were blocking roads leading into the neighbourhood.

The U.S. Embassy tweeted that it was “aware of an ongoing active shooter operation at the Radisson Hotel,” and instructed its citizens to stay indoors. An Islamist group claimed responsibility for the death of five people last March in an attack on a restaurant in Bamako that is popular with foreigners.

A senior security source said some of the hostages had been freed after being made to recite verses from the Koran. The French newspaper Le Monde quoted the Malian security ministry as saying at least three hostages had been killed.

The security source said as many as 10 gunmen had stormed the building, firing shots and shouting “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is great” in Arabic. The hotel’s head of security said two private security guards had been injured in the early stages of the attack, which began at 7 a.m. (0200 ET).

A French presidential source said French citizens were in the hotel. The Chinese state news agency Xinhua said several Chinese tourists were among those trapped inside the building. Turkish Airlines also said it had six staff inside.

Witnesses in the area said police had surrounded the hotel and were blocking roads leading into the neighbourhood.

An Islamist group claimed responsibility for the death of five people last March in an attack on a restaurant in Bamako that is popular with foreigners.

In the wake of last week’s Paris attacks, an Islamic State militant in Syria told Reuters the organization viewed France’s military intervention in Mali as another reason to attack France and French interests.

“This is just the beginning. We also haven’t forgotten what happened in Mali,” said the non-Syrian fighter, who was contacted online by Reuters.

“The bitterness from Mali, the arrogance of the French, will not be forgotten at all.”

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