MALI: Gunmen Attack Bamako Hotel

BAMAKO, NOVEMBER 20, 2015(CISA) – Two Mali nationals and a French national were killed  on November 20 following a gun attack at Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, a U.N official told Reuters.

“Two to three attackers with AK-47s arrived at the hotel in a vehicle or vehicles with diplomatic plates around 7 am,” said Olivier Saldago, a spokesman for the United Nations mission in Mali. Once there, the gunmen entered the hotel and began shooting at people, Saldago said.

At least 80 of roughly 170 hostages had been freed from hotel, the country’s state broadcaster, ORTM, reported. Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita cut short his trip to Chad for a summit to return to Bamako, according to a message Friday on his official Twitter account.

He was expected to arrive in Mali on Friday afternoon, presidential spokesman Diarra Diakite told CNN. Air France said 12 of its crew have been successfully freed in the rescue operation.

Among the other guests staying at the hotel are six Turkish Airlines staff, 20 Indian nationals and reports of up to 10 Chinese citizens. Earlier, a security source told Reuters that some hostages who were able to recite verses of the Koran were being freed.

Security forces have begun a counter-assault on the hotel in Mali’s capital, said French President Francois Hollande, who said he’d been in touch with Malian authorities dealing with the hostage situation, including President Keïta. President Hollande, speaking to reporters in Paris, pledged to provide “necessary support” to help Mali resolve the situation.

Twelve Air France crew members who were staying in the hotel are in a “safe place,” the airline tweeted Friday.

Air France has canceled all its flights Friday to and from Bamako as a precaution, the airline said. In August, suspected Islamist gunmen killed 13 people, including five UN workers, during a hostage siege at a hotel in the central Malian town of Sevare.

France, the former colonial power in Mali, intervened in the country in January 2013 when al-Qaeda-linked militants threatened to march on Bamako after taking control of the north of the country.

The attacks come barely a fortnight after deadly attacks in Paris by gunmen and suicide bombers hit a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars, almost simultaneously – leaving at least 129 people dead and hundreds wounded.