On Friday, Islamist gunmen stormed the Radisson Blue Hotel in Bamako, capital of the West African nation of Mali, taking dozens of hostages, and killing at least 27 people.
The United Nations have confirmed the number of dead after a preliminary assessment of the attack, saying that bodies were found in the basement of the hotel, and on the second floor.
Hotel security told Reuters that the gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar” as they stormed the premises, armed with AK-47s.
Malian special forces quickly surrounded the hotel, sealing the perimiter, and by 1pm local time, a siege situation had developed, with at least 125 guests and 13 employees thought to be inside.
An operation to retake the hotel was soon underway, with at least two gunmen and one special forces operative confirmed killed. A number of those killed appear to be civilians, although details are still sketchy.
Islamist extremists took control of northern Mali in 2012, but a French-led operation removed them from power in 2013. There have been a number of terror attacks in the former French colony since then, and a number of French soldiers remain on the ground.
A hostage told France24 television:
“We were just evacuated from the hotel by security forces; I know that there are a lot of people inside right now. I saw bodies in the lobby. What is happening right now is really horrible … I was hidden in my room barely a couple minutes, a couple seconds ago, and someone shouted, telling us to get out. My door was smashed open, the security forces arrived.”
An al-Qaeda-affiliated African jihadist group, Al-Mourabitoun, claimed responsibility for the attacks via social media, but the claims have yet to be verified.
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