Malian special forces stormed a hotel in the country’s capital Friday to rescue 90 people who were taken hostage hours earlier by militants who shouted “Allahu Akbar” and reportedly forced their captives to recite verses from the Koran or face death.
Malian army commander Modibo Nama Traore told The Associated Press that at least one guest earlier reported that the attackers instructed him to recite verses from the Koran before he was allowed to leave the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako. At least three people have died in the assault, according to another military official, Lt. Col. Diarran Kone.
Traore said Malian special forces have entered the hotel and are freeing hostages “floor by floor.” Hours after the attacks began, local TV images showed heavily armed troops in what appeared to be a lobby area. Some U.S. military personnel in Bamako are assisting with the rescue efforts, a defense official told Fox News
Traore said 10 gunmen had stormed the hotel Friday morning shouting “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” in Arabic before firing on the guards. A staffer at the hotel who gave his name as Tamba Diarra said over the phone that the attackers used grenades in the assault.
The Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel group that operates the hotel said the assailants had initially “locked in” 140 guests and 30 employees. But Malian state TV later said 80 people who were taken hostage have now been freed. The hotel said it believes 138 people are still inside the building.