20 Indians taken hostage freed
Bamako (Mali), Nov 20: Bodies of 27 people were recovered as special forces stormed a hotel in Mali’s capital seized by gunmen on Friday, with a minister saying no more hostages were being held.
“Twenty seven bodies were found,” a security source told an agency on condition of anonymity. Two gunmen were killed, reports said after all hostages were evacuated.
“They currently have no more hostages in their hands and forces are in the process of tracking them down,” security minister Salif Traore told a news conference following the stand-off of several hours.
An African Jihadist group affiliated with al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack at the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako.
Al-Mourabitoun, a group based in northern Mali and made up mostly of Tuaregs and Arabs, posted a message on Twitter saying it was behind the attack. The claim could not immediately be verified.
Twenty Indians held hostage were rescued from the hotel, foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said. The Indian tiols are employees of a Dubai-based company and were staying in the hotel permanently.
Islamic extremists armed with guns and throwing gredes stormed the hotel.
Malian troops, backed by special forces from America and France, reacted quickly. As people ran for their lives near the luxury hotel along a dirt road, the soldiers in full combat gear pointed the way to safety. Within hours, local TV images showed heavily armed troops in what appeared to be a lobby area. Malian state TV reported that 80 people in the hotel when the assault began have been freed.
Malian special forces were freeing hostages “floor by floor,” Malian army commander Modibo ma Traore told The Associated Press.
US special forces troops were assisting Malian forces in hostage rescue efforts, said Col. Mark Cheadle of the US Army’s Africa Command. President Barack Obama said he was monitoring the situation.
France’s tiol gendarme service said about 40 French special police forces were playing a support role at the hotel.
The guests at the sprawling, cream-and-pink colored luxury hotel, which has 190 rooms and features a spa, outdoor pool and ballroom, came from many countries. But the attack was perceived by many in France, particularly in the government, as a new attack on French interests, a week after the Paris attacks.
The French military operation in Mali in 2013 against Islamic extremists who were holding the northern half of the country was the first of several foreign interventions that President Francois Hollande has launched as president. Those interventions have prompted increased threats against France and French interests from Islamic extremist groups from al-Qaida’s North African arm to the Islamic State group.