At least three are dead after gunmen took a Radisson Blu hotel hostage in Bamako, Mali today. The hotel was taken over in a storm of gunfire and explosions once Mali’s special forces descended on the building to free hostages on each floor.
Now it’s estimated that 80 or more hostages have been freed by security forces. The gunmen allegedly required hostages to recite verses from the Quran before they were permitted to exit the hotel. As the gunmen raided the building, they fired their guns and yelled “God is great,” in Arabic.
Three armed gunmen were involved in the seizure, says a Radisson employee. However, a security source for Reuters says that number may have been as large as 10.
The commotion inside the building generated chaos outside as well, as civilians ran for their lives following directions from soldiers stationed in the streets. The US Embassy has since announced an “ongoing active shooter operation” and has instructed people to stay inside or create shelters at their current locations.
Some of those freed included 12 Air France pilots and crew members. The hotel group that owns the Radisson says that the only information it has on the attacks is that 140 guests and 30 employees were held in the attack. This attack is one of the various attacks waged by Islamic extremists; 1,500 French and Dutch troops are stationed in the area as a result.
At the time, Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita had been in Chad for a G5 Sahel meeting, but he cut his business there short to address the attack. France has also dispatched 40 members from the French National Gendarmerie Intervention Group to pacify the conflict.