170 people were taken hostage at the Radisson Blue Hotel in Mali’s capital of Bamako on Friday when two gunmen stormed the hotel, according to Reuters. The place is a highly frequented hub for foreign tourists.
CNN quotes the hotel chain as saying that two armed men have locked in 140 guests and 30 employees.
The shooters arrived in a diplomatic vehicle Friday morning, opening fire as they entered the hotel, said witness Amadou Keita, who works at a cultural center close by.
The gunshots went on for several long minutes, he said.
Two Malian nationals and a French national have died in the first instance but the death toll jumped later to an overall 27 fatalities, a U.N. official disclosed.
Malian soldiers with help from U.N. troops have the hotel surrounded and a large number of hostages.
Early unfolding of events:
12:05 p.m. (CET) The Islamist attackers search the Radisson floor by floor reaching the 7th level.
11:30 a.m. (CET) Special Forces of Mali arrived at the site of the attack and prepare for the assault; France provides logistical and informational support.
11:29 At least three hostages were killed, security forces began the assault (Mali Ministry of Security)
11:26 Security forces evacuated about ten people from the building.
AFP correspondent could see three people coming out of the hotel, including two women.
11:25 At least seven Chinese hostages are inside Radisson
11:20 French nationals are reportedly among the hostages, but their number was not specified, writes Reuters, citing sources close to the presidency of France.
11:17 Turkish Airlines announced that six members of its staff were at the besieged hotel.
11:10 The police managed to evacuate two women.
11:00 The attackers freed several hostages, including those who could recite verses from the Koran, according to sources close to the security services, cited by Reuters.
— Alexandre Capron (@alexcapron) November 20, 2015