Islamic terrorists have opened fire with automatic weapons in a luxury hotel in Bamako, the capital of the western African state of Mali, and taken 170 people hostage. Three terrorists arrived in diplomatic vehicles, bypassing security, at 7:30 am local time, leading the assault in which at least three people were killed with cries of “Allahu Akhbar” (Allah is great). Up to ten terrorists may be holding 140 guests and 30 employees captive in a large hall at the Radisson Blu Hotel.
A Chinese national communicated via his cellular phone that at least seven of the hostages were Chinese. Six Turkish Airlines personnel are among the hostages. There were many French people in the hotel, including Air France staff, along with a delegation for the International Organization of French Speakers.
Hostages able to recite verses from the Koran and the Muslim declaration of faith, the Shahada, are being freed.
AFP reported Malian soldiers, police and special forces have surrounded the hotel, along with some UN peacekeeping troops and French soldiers.
Mali is a former French colony and in 2013, launched Operation Serval, a military campaign to oust Islamic militants linked to al-Qaeda in the north of Mali, at the official request of the interim government. The operation ended in July 2014. In August 2015, suspected Islamist gunmen killed 13 people, including five UN workers, during a hostage siege at a hotel in the central Malian town of Sevare.