Friday, 20 November 2015

Eighty hostages freed as special forces storm Mali hotel

Malian security forces are storming the hotel and at least a dozen hostages have been freed after the attack by "two or three" assailants, a spokesman for the security ministry told AFP.


ATP - Eighty hostages held by Islamist gunmen have[H1]  been freed from a luxury hotel in Mali's capital as government special forces moved floor by floor to clear the building, Mali's state broadcaster and a security source. "The attackers are still inside. We're hearing gunfire from time to time," said a witness outside the Radisson Blu hotel.  Gunmen went on a shooting rampage at the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in Mali's capital Bamako today, 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 and at least a dozen hostages have been freed after the attack by "two or three" assailants, a spokesman for the security ministry told AFP.
Security sources said the gunmen were jihadists who had entered the hotel compound at around 0700 GMT (12:30 IST) 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.
The Rezidor Hotel Group, the US-based parent company of Radisson Blu, said there were a total of 170 hostages -- 140 guests and 30 employees. "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," Rezidor said in a statement. The US embassy in Mali advised any American citizens in the country to shelter where they were, contact their families and monitor local media.
A French consultant who stays regularly at the hotel described it as "an obvious target for terrorists". "The Radisson is at a crossroads, one of the roads was blocked. Security is provided by private guards. They passed a metal detector under cars," said the consultant, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

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