Update: At least 27 people were dead on Friday after Malian commandos stormed the Radisson Blu hotel seized by Islamist gunmen to rescue 170 people, many of them foreigners, trapped in the building.
Troops from France and the U.S., alongside United Nations peacekeepers, blocked off roads while Malian soldiers fought their way to the seventh floor of the hotel in Bamako, where gunmen had been holding 170 hostages, according to officials and witnesses.
The jihadist group Al Mourabitoun, allied to al Qaeda and based in the desert north of the former French colony, claimed responsibility for the attack. The former French colony has been battling Islamist rebels for years.
One week on from the terrible attacks in Paris that claimed lives of more than 120 people, three gunman intruded intoÂ the hotel in Mali and have used grenades.
Police in Maliâ€™s capital enteredÂ a Radisson Blu hotel to liberate hostages in a seven-hour siege that military officials said left 27 people dead, including five terrorists.
Malian soldiers shotÂ their way to the seventh floor of the hotel in Bamako, where gunmen screaming Islamic chants had been holding 170 hostages.
Mali’s president acknowledged the attack on Twitter:
— Presidence Mali (@PresidenceMali) November 20, 2015
Rezidor Hotel Group, which operates the premises, confirmed the attack in a statement, saying gunmen “locked in” the 170 people.
“Our safety & security teams and our corporate team are in constant contact with the local authorities in order offer any support possible to re-instate safety and security at the hotel. At this point we do not have further information and continue to closely monitor the situation,” they added.
Air France said 12 of its crew members were staying in the hotel, which is located 15 minutes from the city’s main airport,Â when the attackers intruded the hotel.
— Air France Newsroom (@AFnewsroom) November 20, 2015
â€śWith the means we have in the area, we will do what is possible to obtain the freedom of the hostages,â€ť French president Mr. Hollande said. â€śOnce again, terrorists want to mark with their barbaric presence all places where they can kill or massacre.â€ť
“TV footage from inside the hotel showed hostages being whisked to safety by Kalashnikov-toting Malian forces and Western military advisers,” The Wall Street Journal reports.Â “Military officials confirmed the death toll in the early evening. It wasnâ€™t immediately clear whether the others who died were hostages or soldiers.”