Mali hotel attack: Deadly hostage situation ends after security officials storm Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako

At least 18 people are believed to have died in the attack

Kashmira Gander,Mia Alberti
Friday 20 November 2015 13:27
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A woman is led away from the Radisson Blu hotel
A woman is led away from the Radisson Blu hotel

A siege in a luxury hotel in Mali in which gunmen held over 100 people captive and killed at least 18 people has ended after security forces stormed the building.

Armed with guns and grenades, around 10 men entered the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako shouting "Allahu Akbar", or God is great in Arabic, before opening fire on guards. Witnesses reported hearing bursts of gunfire during the siege.

As officials worked to free all of those being held inside the building, images emerged showing security forces leading hostages away from a hotel.

As the hostage situation unfolded, 125 guests and 13 employees were held captive, according to the Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel group that operates the hotel chain - revising an earlier statement which said that 140 guests and 30 employees were involved.

The men then began working their way through the building, room by room, floor by floor, according to a senior security source.

Malian army commander Modibo Nama Traore later said that 20 people had since been released. Other guests were reportedly able to escape the hotel, while others were freed after proving they could recite verses from the Koran, security source said.

A Belgian diplomat named Geoffrey Dieudonne was among those killed. Earlier officials confirmed that two Malians and one French national was among the dead.

A woman is led away by security personnel from the Radisson Blu Hotel hotel in Bamako
An unidentified man who was in the Radisson Blu Hotel walks to safety in Bamako

Fearing for their lives, people in the area fled along a dirt road as a soldier in full combat gear escorted them to safety, according to reports from the scene.

As officials attempt to uncover what happened during the siege, witness reports have helped to form a picture of what happened as the attack began.

"I was inside, I saw the dead bodies in the hall. It is horrible what is happening inside the hotel. I got out when the security forces enter the hotel," a witness freed from the hotel told France 24.

The Mali hotel attack explained

One of the freed hostages said he heard the attackers speaking in English, while a staff member at the hotel who identified himself as Tamba Diarra said that the attackers used grenades during the bloody assault.

Sékouba “Bambino” Diabate, a Guinean singer who was among the hostages, said: "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.

"The attackers went into the room next to mine. I stayed still, hidden under the bed, not making a noise.

"I heard them say in English 'Did you load it?', 'Let's go'."

A gardener who was sweeping the yard said that he saw men wearing masks arrive at the hotel in a car with a diplomatic licence plate.

"At the gate of the hotel, the guard stopped them and they start firing. We fled," he told BBC News.

Another eyewitness told the broadcaster that she believed between five and 13 men stormed the building.

"They injured three security guards who were at the gate of the hotel," she said.

Mirror the gardener's accounts, Amadou Keita, a worker at a cultural centre in the capital, told CNN that the gunmen fired for several minutes as they entered the hotel.

The streets are empty now, there is no one on the streets.”

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Monique Kouame Affoue Ekonde, an Ivorian, said she and six other people, including a Turkish woman, were escorted out by security forces as the gunmen rushed "toward the fifth or sixth floor."

"I think they are still there. I've left the hotel and I don't know where to go. I'm tired and in a state of shock," she said.

Carlos Lumu, whose girlfriend works at the hotel, told The Independent: "In the morning I hear a lot of gunfire, lots and lots of shots, but no explosions.

"I saw two people injured, being carried to the ambulances and to the hospital. The streets are empty now, there is no one on the streets.”

The UN has responded to the attack by pledging to send security reinforcements and medical aid to the scene which was dotted with ambulances and being encircled by a military helicopter.

The nationalities of those inside the hotel remains unclear, however, the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV has reported that around 10 of its citizens were caught up in the attack but are believed to be safe. The website of the China Daily newspaper meanwhile reported that one Chinese citizen had been rescused.

Five Turkish Airlines personnel were among the freed hostages, Turkey's state-run news agency said, while an official said that three of six staff who had been in the hotel managed to flee.

The US Embassy in Mali is urging citizens to take shelter, while Air France confirmed that 12 Air France crew member inside the hotel were safely removed from the building.

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has cut short a trip to a regional summit in Chad to return to the capital, his office said.

No group has claim responsibility for the attack. However, the it is suspected to have been carried out by one of the number of jihadi groups allied to al-Qaeda which seized the northern half of Mali in 2012 but were later ousted from cities and towns by the French military. Around 1,000 French troops remain inside the country.

Additional reporting by PA and Reuters

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