At least 27 people were reported dead on Friday after Malian commandos stormed a luxury hotel in the capital Bamako with at least 170 people inside, many of them foreigners, that had been seized by Islamist gunmen.
The former French colony has been battling Islamist rebels for several years, and the jihadist group Al Mourabitoun, allied to al Qaeda and based in the deserts of northern Mali, claimed responsibility for the attack in a tweet.
Nine hours after the siege of the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital town by extremists in a hail of fire from automatic guns, security minister Salif Traore announced the end of the hostage crisis after two gunmen were killed by security forces.
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“They currently have no more hostages in their hands and forces are in the process of tracking them down,” security minister Salif Traore told a news conference following the stand-off.
The incident came a week after the deadly terror attack in Paris. Though there was no direct link between the two incidents, Mali has been at the centre of French military operations against Islamists in north Africa.
“Good news! All 20 Indians in the hotel in Bamako have been safely evacuated. Our Ambassador in Mali has confirmed,” the External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson tweeted.
Employees of a Dubai-based company, these Indians were staying in the hotel permanently, the Spokesperson said in New Delhi.
Mali’s north fell under the control of Tuareg rebels and jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda in mid-2012 before they were beaten back by a French-led operation in early 2013.
As the drama in Bamako was unfolding, EU ministers agreed at an emergency meeting in Brussels to tighten border controls after the Paris massacre which was orchestrated by a jihadist who had travelled between Syria and France.
Prosecutors in Paris also confirmed that three people had died at a house in a north Paris suburb used as a hideout by suspected attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, including him and his female cousin.
Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin, and cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen were killed in an assault by anti-terror police on Wednesday. The identity of the third body has not been disclosed.
Gunmen entered the 190-room hotel compound at around 0700 GMT (1230 IST) in a car with diplomatic plates and automatic gunfire was heard from outside, security sources said.
Earlier, the hotel’s owner, the Rezidor Hotel Group, said 138 people were still inside, with employees of the French and Turkish national airlines as well as Chinese among known to be those staying there.
As it happened
9:48 pm Mali hotel gunmen holding no more hostages: security minister
8:37 pm An African Jihadist group affiliated with al Qaeda claimed responsibility on Friday for the attack and ongoing hostage-taking at a business hotel in the Malian capital Bamako. Al-Mourabitoun, a group based in northern Mali and made up mostly of Tuaregs and Arabs, posted a message on Twitter saying it was behind the attack on the Radisson Blu hotel, where hostages are still being held. The claim could not immediately be verified.
8:06 pm All 20 Indians in the hotel in Bamako have been safely evacuated. Our Ambassador in Mali has confirmed.
Good news! All 20 Indians in the hotel in Bamako have been safely evacuated. Our Ambassador in Mali has confirmed. #MaliAttack
— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) November 20, 2015
7:45 pm Some US military personnel in Mali were helping move civilians to secure locations amid an attack at a luxury hotel in Bamako, a US defense official said.
6:41 pm Hostage freed from Radisson hotel says he heard attackers speaking English.
5:57 pm Elite French unit heads to Mali amid hostage crisis: police.
5:40 pm: Eighty hostages freed in Mali hotel siege: local TV.
Indians trapped in Mali hostage crisis are a business delegation, sources say. @IndianExpress
— Shubhajit Roy (@ShubhajitRoy) November 20, 2015
#MaliAttack : Acc’g to current info there are 20 Indians staying in the hotel. Our Amb is continuously in touch with them & monitor’g sitn
— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) November 20, 2015
4:20 pm: At least three hostages killed in Bamako hotel siege, said a minister.
4:10 pm: Mali security forces evacuate around a dozen hostages from hotel, says Ministry.
3:50 pm: Turkish airlines has six staff members inside attacked hotel in Mali capital, says Turkish official.
3:30 pm: Mali hotel gunmen free some hostages, including those able to recite verses of the Koran, security sources said.
3:09 pm 170 people taken hostage by two attackers in Bamako hotel in Mali, Manager of Radisson Blu, quoted by BBC.
3:08 pm Around 10 gunmen believed to be inside Radisson Blu Hotel, said security source.