Bamako: Two gunmen have taken 170 people hostage in the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in the Mali capital Bamako on Friday, the group that runs the hotel said.
The hotel chain in a statement said two people had “locked in” 140 guests and 30 employees in an ongoing hostage-taking at the hotel.
“The Rezidor Hotel Group… is aware of the hostage-taking that is ongoing at the property today, Nov 20, 2015. As per our information two persons have locked in 140 guests and 30 employees,” the company said.
“Our safety and security teams and our corporate team are in constant contact with the local authorities in order to offer any support possible to re-instate safety and security at the hotel,” it added.
Gunmen shooting and shouting “God is great” burst into the hotel, a senior Malian security source said. The source said at least two private security guards had been injured.
Security sources said the gunmen have freed some hostages including those able to recite verses of the Holy Quran.
The raid targeted the Radisson Blu hotel, located just west of the city centre in a neighbourhood that is home to government ministries and diplomats, they said.
“Very early in the morning there was gunfire. Apparently it’s an attempt to take hostages. The police are there and are sealing off the area,” a security source had said.
Witnesses in the area said police had surrounded the hotel and were blocking roads leading into the neighbourhood.
The United States Embassy tweeted that it was “aware of an ongoing active shooter operation at the Radisson Hotel,” and instructed its citizens to stay indoors.
Northern Mali was occupied by militants, some with links to Al Qaeda, for most of 2012. Although they were driven out by a French-led military operation, sporadic violence continues.
The shooting follows a nearly 24-hour siege and hostage-taking at another hotel in August in the central Malian town of Sevare in which four soldiers, five UN workers and four attackers were killed.
A militant group claimed responsibility for the death of five people last March in an attack on a restaurant in Bamako popular with foreigners.