A 190-room Radisson hotel in the capital city of Bamako in Mali, West Africa, came under attack from jihadists on Friday, leaving at least 19 people dead. Shooting and blasts rocked the building, where 170 people were held hostage for hours.
Mali’s President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, has announced on state television that 21 people, including two militants, were killed and seven others wounded in Friday’s attack.
Three days of national mourning have been declared.
Meanwhile, the US State Department has confirmed that one US citizen was killed in the terrorist attack in Bamako. The UK said that the three Britons who were in the hotel are “safe,” while the Canadian government has confirmed that three Canadians are now safe too, including two people earlier taken hostage.
Two terrorists were holding 140 visitors and 30 hotel employees hostage, RTL France quoted Carlson Rezidor Group, the owners of the hotel, as saying. However, a senior security source put the number of gunmen in the hotel at 10, Reuters reported.
The siege continued for some seven hours. Gunfire continued to be heard at the scene after the hostages were reported freed, AP said, citing Malian army commander Modibo Nama Traore, who said that operations are still ongoing.
Eaerlier, it was reported that at least 18 bodies were found at the hotel after the hostage situation ended, while a UN official told Reuters that peacekeepers have seen 27.
A group of Islamist gunmen involved in the attack continue to hold out against security forces, a security ministry spokesman told Reuters. “They are dug in in the upper floors. They are alone with the Malian special forces who are trying to dislodge them,” spokesman Amadou Sangho said.
An extremist group known as the Mourabitounes, which split from al-Qaida’s North Africa branch two years ago, claimed responsibility for the attack, AP reported, citing a recorded statement carried by Al-Jazeera.
The guests caught up in the hostage situation come from 14 different countries, according to media reports, including Germany, Belgium, Canada, Spain, America, France, and Russia.
The hotel has been approved by the UN for their personnel, and crew members of a number of international airlines also stay there. Air France said it had 12 airline crew members staying at the besieged hotel, who are now safe. At least five Turkish Airlines crew members have also been rescued, according to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.