20 Indians among 170 taken hostage in Mali
Bamako (Mali), Nov 20 (IANS) At least three people were killed on Friday as gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital Bamako and took hostage some 170 people including 20 Indians, media reports said.
The external affairs ministry said in New Delhi that 20 Indians were among the hostages and added that India’s ambassador was “continuously in touch with them” and monitoring the situation.
The identity of the attackers was not immediately known. No group claimed responsibility.
The Radisson Blu Hotel chain said two armed men locked 140 guests and 30 employees, CNN reported. Two Malian citizens and a French national were killed.
But some 80 people, including three UN staff members, were freed, the country’s state broadcaster ORTM said.
Twelve Air France crew members staying in the hotel were in a “safe place”, the airline said. Air France has cancelled all its flights Friday to and from Bamako as a precaution.
The Radisson Blu Hotel is about 15 minutes away from the Bamako Senou International Airport.
According to Xinhua news agency, at least seven Chinese guests were among those held hostage.
One of them exchanged instant messages with a Xinhua reporter and said he heard multiple gunshots outside his room and then smelled smoke.
The ordeal began at around 7.00 a.m. when two men carrying AK-47s reached the hotel in a vehicle or vehicles with diplomatic plates, said Olivier Saldago, a spokesman for the UN Mission in Mali.
Security forces have begun a counter-assault on the hotel.
According to Salgado, the hotel was hosting a large delegation for the Mali peace process.
Mali, located in west Africa and the eighth largest country in Africa, has been hit by an armed conflict since January 2012. It led to intervention by French troops against Islamists in the country’s north.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has cut short his trip to Chad and was headed back to Mali, a country of 14.5 million people where Islam is the dominant religion.