Gunmen have attacked a Radisson hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, and are holding 170 hostages, the hotel company has confirmed.
At least two private security guards were injured in the attack, the hotel’s head of security said.
Malian army commander Modibo Nama Traore said 10 gunmen stormed the Radisson Blu hotel shouting “Allahu Akbar” before shooting at guards and taking hostages.
Some hostages, including those able to recite verses of the Qur’an, were later released, security sources told Reuters. A security source told AFP that the gunmen were “jihadis” and entered the hotel compound in a car that had diplomatic plates.
“It’s all happening on the seventh floor, jihadists are firing in the corridor,” AFP’s source said.
The hotel is just west of the city centre in a neighbourhood that is home to government ministries and diplomats.
In a statement the US-based Rezidor group, which owns the hotel, said 140 guests and 30 staff were being held hostage by two gunmen.
“The Rezidor Hotel Group … is aware of the hostage-taking that is ongoing at the property today, 20th November 2015. As per our information two persons have locked in 140 guests and 30 employees,” the company said in a statement quoted by AFP.
“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 re-instate safety and security at the hotel,” it added.
The Chinese state news agency Xinhua said several Chinese tourists were among those trapped inside the building.
The US embassy in Bamako said in a series of tweets that it was aware of an “ongoing shooter situation” and advised its citizens to seek shelter.
Northern Mali was occupied by Islamist fighters, some with links to al-Qaida, for most of 2012. Although they were driven out by a French-led military operation, sporadic violence continues.
An Islamist group claimed responsibility for the death of five people last March in an attack on a restaurant in Bamako popular with foreigners.
NEO Monitoring Desk