Friday, November 20, 2015

Muslim gunmen attack luxury hotel in Mali capital, 170 taken hostage, 3 killed

NAIROBI, Kenya (WaPo) — Gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital on Friday with 170 guests and staff, killing at least three people and taking hostages in a city that serves as a logistics hub for French and American forces helping fight Islamist insurgents.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, and the identities or affiliation of the assailants were not clear. But Mali has faced repeated attacks from militants linked to al-Qaeda and other factions.

Security forces conducted room-by-room searches amid sporadic gunfire. U.S. military units and French commandos were dispatched to the scene.

At least 80 captives managed to escape or were released by the attackers hours after the standoff begun, state TV reported in Mali. Some were reportedly freed after being able to recite the Muslim profession of faith. [...]

Malian army commander Modibo Nama Traore said gunmen stormed the hotel shouting “Allahu Akbar” — “God is great” in Arabic — and then fired on the guards and began taking hostages, the Associated Press reported.

At least three people were killed, the Malian military said.

Waiting for Obama and Hillary to tell us how terror has no religious affiliation.
Occasional bursts of gunfire were heard as the assailants went through the seven-floor building, room-by-room and floor-by-floor, one senior security source and a witness told Reuters.

State television said 80 hostages had left the building by midday, but an hour later the hotel's website said 124 guests and 13 staff were still inside.

Some people were freed by the attackers after showing they could recite verses from the Koran, while others were brought out by security forces or managed to escape under their own steam.

One of the rescued hostages, celebrated Guinean singer Sékouba 'Bambino' Diabate, said he had overheard two of the assailants speaking in English as they searched the room next to his.

"We heard shots coming from the reception area. I didn't dare go out of my room because it felt like this wasn't just simple pistols - these were shots from military weapons," Diabate told Reuters by phone.

"The attackers went into the room next to mine. I stayed still, hidden under the bed, not making a noise," he said. "I heard them say in English 'Did you load it?', 'Let's go'."

The website of the French newspaper Le Monde quoted him as saying the attackers had spoken with a Nigerian accent.

Commandos storm luxury Mali hotel attacked by Islamists, dozens freed
Malian commandos stormed a luxury hotel in Bamako on Friday after Islamist gunmen took 170 people including many foreigners hostage in the capital of the former French colony, which has been battling rebels allied to al Qaeda for several years.

Dozens of people were reported to have escaped or been freed, but at least three were dead. A security source said the gunmen had dug in on the seventh floor of the hotel as special forces advanced on them. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

State television showed footage of troops in camouflage fatigues wielding AK47s in the lobby of the Radisson Blu, one of Bamako's smartest hotels. In the background, a body lay under a brown blanket at the bottom of a flight of stairs