At least two suspected Jihadist gunmen have besieged a luxury hotel in West African nation Mali’s capital city Bamako. The gunmen entered the Radisson Blu hotel compound early Friday afternoon in a car that is told to have diplomatic plates before taking 170 guests and staff as hostages. At least three people have been reportedly killed, though it is yet to be confirmed if all the three deceased were hostages. No specific group has taken responsibility of the attack.
At least 20 Indians are reported to be staying at the hotel when the attack took place. The government of India is monitoring the situation.
“According to current info there are 20 Indians staying in the hotel. Our Ambassador is continuously in touch with them and monitoring the situation”, spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup said through the micro-blogging website Twitter.
As per the latest reports, the Malian security forces are storming the hotel even as the local press claimed that more than 80 hostages have been freed by the forces. The number of gunmen is still tipped to be “two or three” by the spokesman for the security ministry.
As per the initial reports, state Military Commander Modibo Naman Traore claimed that “ten gunmen” stormed the hotel shouting religious slogans in Arabic language before firing on the guards and taking hostages.
“The company is aware of the hostage-taking that is ongoing at the property today, 20th November 2015. As per our information two persons have locked in 140 guests and 30 employees” said the Rezidor Hotel Group, the US-based parent company of Radisson Blu.
Security sources from Mali have said that “it’s all happening on the seventh floor, jihadists are firing in the corridor” of the 190-room hotel in the city-centre. Malian soldiers, state police and its special force are on the scene as a security perimeter was set up along with members of the United Nation MINUSMA peacekeeping force in Mali.
Besides, an elite French unit of paramilitary police specialised in hostage situations left for Mali soon after the incident, claimed its interior ministry. Around 40 paramilitary police from the GIGN unit were on their way to assist Malian security forces dealing with a hostage situation.
The shooting at the Radisson Blu hotel follows a nearly 24-hour siege and hostage-taking at another hotel in August in the central Malian town of Sevare. Five UN workers were killed, along with four soldiers and four attackers in the shootout. Five people, including a French citizen and a Belgian, were also killed in an attack at a restaurant in Bamako in March in the first such incident in the capital.
Terror groups have continued to wage attacks in Mali despite a June peace deal between former Tuareg rebels in the north of the country and rival pro-government armed groups.
Northern Mali fell in March-April 2012 to Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist groups long concentrated in the area before being ousted by an ongoing French-led military operation launched in January 2013. Despite the peace deal, large swathes of Mali remain beyond the control of government and foreign forces.
(With inputs from the PTI/Agencies)