Special forces storm luxury hotel under attack in Mali

Special forces have stormed a five-star hotel in the Malian capital Bamako after gunmen stormed it and took at least 170 people hostage.

Mali’s state broadcaster reported that 80 of the hostages have been released with commandos going floor to floor inside the Radisson Blu Hotel. Later, the company who owns the hotel said in a statement that 125 guests and 13 employees were still in the building.

«The attackers are still inside. We’re hearing gunfire from time to time,» a witness outside the Radisson told the Reuters news agency.

Gunman shouting «Allahu Akbar» earlier on Friday opened fire outside the luxury hotel in the centre of the capital before storming it.

Reports said they drove up in vehicles bearing diplomatic licence plates, thereby gaining easy access.

«About 10 gunmen arrived early in the morning and shot all the guards in front of the Radisson,» business owner Garba Konate told Al Jazeera.

Another witness said he helped a wounded guard to safety.

«I started hearing gunshots coming from the hotel,» said Ibrahim, 28, who works at a cultural centre 40 metres away.

«Soon after I saw one of the guards running out, injured… The security guard told me the shooters were so quick that he doesn’t even know how many came in,» he told Al Jazeera.

Heavy gunfire could be heard from outside the 190-room hotel where security forces had set up a cordon.

A well-known Guinean singer who was in the hotel told Reuters he had heard the gunmen speaking English.

«I heard them say in English ‘Did you load it?’, ‘Let’s go’,» Sékouba ‘Bambino’ Diabate, who was freed by Malian security forces, said. «I wasn’t able to see them because in these kinds of situations it’s hard.»

Idrissa Sangare, a local journalist at the scene, told Al Jazeera that Malian special forces, French troops and UN soldiers were working together in front of the hotel.

«We don’t know who carried out the attack because the operation is still going on,» Sangare said. «We’re hearing sporadic gunfire. There are a lot of injured people inside the hotel, I’m being told — more than 40 people.»

UN officials were holding a function at the hotel, he reported.


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