Gunmen attacked a hotel in Mali, Africa, the former French colony, leaving three dead and taking more than 100 people hostage. Around 7am Friday morning at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali, an unknown number of gunmen armed with AK-47 rifles entered property in a vehicle with diplomatic plates and opened fire in the hotel shouting “God is great!” in Arabic.
Many people were at the prominent US-owned hotel for a large delegation peace talk to discuss fighting against Islamist extremists in their country along with assistance from U.N. and French military.
It is estimated there were 170 people at the hotel on Friday including guests and staff. It is unknown how many people were taken hostage. The “hotel operators said more than 135 people — including 125 guests — were believed held,” wrote the Washington Post. However there seems to be discrepancy in the counts. The hotel owner is working to identify all guests.
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita stated 17 people had been rescued and that at least 80 people have been freed from the hotel, although other accounts say that only 30 hostages were freed.
BBC said, “Earlier, a security source told Reuters that some hostages who were able to recite verses of the Koran were being freed.”
A counterassault has begun as Malian authorities deal with the hostage situation. French President Francois Hollande remains in touch with Malian authorities and French special forces are on site. U.S. special forces are also “currently assisting hostage recovery efforts.”
Hollande stated, “France is leading this war with its armed forced, its soldiers, its courage. It must carry out this war with its allies, its partners giving us all the means available, as we did in Mali, as we are going to continue in Iraq, as we’ll continue in Syria.”
The Washington Post reported, “Authorities drew no direct links to last week’s attacks in Paris. But Mali — home to the famous ancient city of Timbuktu — has been at the center of a French-backed effort to drive back Islamist rebels that once had control over large portions of the vast nation, which stretches from tropical West Africa to desert regions bordering Algeria.”
The U.N. mission is Mali has been deadly with 53 members murdered over the past three years. “Mali has been in a protracted battle against terrorism since 2012 when the northern part of the country was taken over by Islamist insurgents aligned with al Qaeda. French troops intervened and eventually won back the territory,” wrote The Atlantic.
CNN reported, “The timing of the attack comes just a day after Hollande praised his troops for successfully fighting Islamists in the landlocked former French colony.”
The 170 hostages have been freed. BBC reported, “Reporters have been told that at least 18 people have died in the siege and two of the gunmen have been killed.”
BBC shared details on the gunmen: “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its offshoot al-Murabitoun said they carried out the attack, according to an agency used by jihadists in the region.”