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Islamists occupy luxury hotel in Mali, taking 170 hostages

20.11.2015 18:01
Hotel Radisson Blu Bamako (PHOTO: Twitter.com)
Hotel Radisson Blu Bamako (PHOTO: Twitter.com)

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that unknown armed men assaulted the Radisson Blu hotel today in Bamako, the capital of Mali, taking 170 people hostage. According to initial reports the hostages included Chinese people, French people and Turkish people.

According to police in Mali, gunfire was heard at the scene from the early morning hours. A reporter for France24 television has reported that two people have perished, one of whom is European, while other sources say as many as five people have died.

The attackers drove up to the building in vehicles with diplomatic license plates. According to police, 10 armed men then raided the hotel.

Reportedly a commando then released 15 hostages who were able to display knowledge of the Quran. Witnesses also saw an escort lead two women from the hotel.

At the beginning of the incident the hostages included 30 employees and 140 guests of the hotel. Malian President Boubacar Keita was on a visit to Chad and is returning to Mali because of the attack.

The Radisson is one of the most luxurious hotels in Bamako, located to the west of the city center, and is frequently used by foreign nationals, including Air France flight crews. The company's leadership is now in the process of ascertaining whether their employees are among the hostages.

The Turkish Government says it has been informed that six employees of Turkish Airlines are among the hostages. An AFP photographer reported from the scene that French soldiers are accommodated at the hotel who are members of the UN's MINUSMA mission, and according to some reports the Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote is staying there.

The building has 90 rooms and was 90 % occupied. One of the Chinese guests told the New China news agency that he was "among several Chinese guests who are now stranded in the hotel."

The witnesses quoted by the Associated Press have claimed that the attackers had grenades and rifles. One hotel employee has reported that a commando unit shouting "Allah akbar" ("God is great") fought their way to the hotel by using grenades.

The US Embassy in Mali has called on US citizens in the country not to go outdoors. An advisor to the Malian Defense Ministry has reported that it is not yet clear what exactly is transpiring inside the hotel.

Police have surrounded the hotel and a special unit of the Malian Army is also on the scene. An evacuation of people from surrounding buildings has begun and witnesses say panic is predominating.

Mali has undergone a long fight against Islamist radicals who began to occupy the north of the country in 2012. Thanks to intervention by the French Army, as well as others, the radicals' approach to Bamako was successfully halted back then.

After the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, French President François Hollande said France will be combating terrorists wherever they are in the world until they are destroyed and that this would be done in Iraq and Mali in addition to Syria. France still has approximately 1 000 soldiers in Mali and according to some sources several have already been sent to the hotel.

The Czech Army is also working in Mali under the patronage of a European Union mission. They are contributing to training local soldiers and to guarding the mission headquarters in Bamoko.   

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Islamismus, Terorismus



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