Malian special forces have entered the Raidisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital Bamaka, to end a siege by terrorist gunmen who had been holding 170 people hostage.
The attackers stormed the hotel – which is popular with foreign businesses and airline crews – shooting and shouting “Allahu Akbar!”- “God is great!” in Arabic.
Malian state TV is reporting that 80 people have now been freed from the terrorists clutches, but sadly at least three people are reported to have been killed in the siege that started around 7am GMT.
Among the hotel guests staying at the hotel are six Turkish Airlines staff, 20 Indian nationals and there are reports of up to 10 Chinese civilians.
Malian specials are reportedly freeing hostages “floor by floor” and earlier today a security source told Reuters that some hostages who were able to recite verses of the Koran were being freed.
This comes just days after the leader of the Islamist militant group Ansar Dine, Iyad Ag Ghaly, called for attacks on France and its interests in Mali. His al-Qaeda-linked group was among those ousted from northern towns in 2013.
Popular Guinean singer Sekouba Bambino was among some guests who has managed to get out of the hotel. It is not clear how he escaped.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: “I woke up with the sounds of gunshots and for me it sounded like small bandits. After 20 or 30 minutes, I realised these are not just petty criminals.”
Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has cut short a trip to a regional summit in Chad, with the French President Francois Hollande saying we need to ‘stand firm’ and ‘show our solidarity’ with Mali.
Some reports say about 10 gunmen in total are involved in the attack.