On Friday morning, a reported 10 Islamist gunmen took 170 people hostage at the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako.
The gunmen stormed the U.S.-owned hotel — which is used quite often by foreign businesses as well as airline crews — around 7 a.m (2 a.m. EST) firing and shouting “Allahu Akbar” which translates to “God is great” in Arabic.
Shortly after two armed men locked 140 guests and 30 employees in at the hotel, 80 were freed. A security source has said that some people being held hostage were let go if they were able to recite verses of the Koran.
Sadly it’s being reported that there have been three deaths so far in the attack.
A spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs has addressed the situation and said 20 Indian nationals were staying in the hotel.
Air France also gave an update tweeting that twelve of their crew members who were staying in the hotel are in a “safe place.” As a precaution, Air France has canceled its flights to and from Bamako on Friday.
At this time, the identity of the gunmen or the group that they’re affiliated with is unknown.
After learning of the news, French President Fran├â┬ºois Hollande announced a counter-assault on the hotel saying France would:
“Use all the means available to us on the ground to free the hostages.”
A police source close to the situation has also addressed the matter and said of the gunmen:
“They’ve penetrated inside the hotel. The operations are under way.”
Unfortunately there are connections to France in this tragic story as Mali is a former French colony. Not only that but at Mali’s request in 2013, France helped launch an offensive after Islamists, some with links to al Qaeda, seized the town of Konna.
Just recently Hollande addressed the operations in Mali saying:
“France is leading this war with its armed forced, its soldiers, its courage. It must carry out this war with its allies, its partners giving us all the means available, as we did in Mali, as we are going to continue in Iraq, as we’ll continue in Syria.”
The good news is the campaign resulted in Islamist fighters who had seized the northern region being forced to flee into the desert.
As a result of the current hostage situation occurrences, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita cut a trip to the regional summit in Chad a bit short in order to to return to Bamako.
We can’t imagine how difficult this situation must be, and we just hope that everyone is safe.
[Image via AP Images.]