BAMAKO, Mali (Christian Examiner) – A week after terrorists attacked Paris, gunmen armed with AK47s poured into the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, shouting "Allahu Akbar" before opening fire on guards and guests, killing 27, according to the The Telegraph.
The gunmen took about 125 guests and at least 10 hotel staff hostage during the attack which began at 7 a.m., according to the Washington Post . Several hours after they arrived, special forces including U.N. troops freed the hostages and cornered the gunmen on an upper floor.
The attack is believed to have been carried out jointly by al-Qaeda and its affiliate al-Mourabitou, the WP reported, a group that French and Malian military have been trying to subdue in the country since 2012, making progress against the extremists. After the Paris attacks, security had been tightened in Bamako, the capital of Mali, and French reinforcements dispatched.
One Senegalese guest, Aïssatou Gueye, was in her room when the attackers entered. "They were asking people to recite the Koran and if they do, nothing will happen to them," she said, according to the Washington Post, adding that she witnessed a person being fatally shot before she escaped the building.
The Radisson Blu is known to house foreign guests, which might be why it was targeted. Businesspeople and diplomats were among the 140 guests registered with the hotel at the time of the attack.
Two gunmen have also been reported dead.
'JUST THE BEGINNING'
A rescued hostage, Guinean singer Sékouba "Bambino" Diabate, said he hid under his bed and overheard the assailants talking to each other. "I stayed still, hidden under the bed, not making a noise," Diabate said to Reuters. "I heard them say in English, 'Did you load it? Let's go.'"
News footage of hostages rescued shows military escorting people through a hallway and down a staircase into the hotel's lobby. Some hostages appeared to be wounded and were carried out of the building by soldiers.
"The attackers no longer have hostages. 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 to Reuters.
Among those rescued are six Americans, 12 Air France crew, five of seven Turkish Airlines staff, and three of 10 Chinese tourists, Reuters reported.
U.S. military personnel who happened to be in Bamako helped guide hostages outside the hotel. "We do have some people who are assisting in the hostage recovery efforts at the hotel," said Chuck Prichard, a spokesman for Africa Command, to the Washington Post. "They helped move some of the civilians to secure locations as the Malian forces worked to remove the hostile forces from the hotel."
Confirmed dead are a French national, a Belgian security officer, and at least three Malian citizens.
Two months ago, al-Mourabitou seized a hotel in Sevare, Mali. Today's attack might be indirectly related to the Paris attacks as anti-French sentiment among Islamic militants is said to be high.
An Islamic State militant said the terrorist organization resented French presence in Mali. "This is just the beginning. We also haven't forgotten what happened in Mali," said the militant, who was contacted online by Reuters. "The bitterness from Mali, the arrogance of the French, will not be forgotten at all."