SUSPECTED Islamic extremists armed with guns and throwing grenades yesterday morning stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, killing at least 13 people and taking numerous hostages, before they (hostages) were later freed.
Mali’s special forces launched an operation, first freeing about 80 hostages, according to the state-run ORTM Channel on a scrolling banner.
“Our special forces have freed hostages and 30 others were able to escape on their own,” Security Minister, Salif Traore, told AFP.
Nigerian billionaire investor, Aliko Dangote, who was recently named Africa’s richest man by Forbes magazine, reportedly escaped the attack on the American-owned hotel, having left about 24 hours earlier.
There were fears earlier on that he may have been trapped in the attack. But Dangote, in a Twitter account said to be his, wrote: “Rumour about me being held hostage is false. I was in Mali yesterday. Thank you for your concern. My prayers with those involved.”
Meanwhile, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, has condemned the attack.
Ban, in a statement issued by his spokesperson in Bamako, expressed his sincere condolences to the government of Mali and the bereaved families and wished the wounded speedy recovery.
Ban noted with concern that the attack occurred at a time the peace process was making good progress.
The attackers, suspected to be jihadists, had entered the hotel compound around 0700 GMT in a car bearing diplomatic plates.
Many of the 140 guests and 30 staff were in their rooms when the attack began, the security ministry spokesman said.
Automatic weapons fire was heard outside the 190-room hotel in the city centre, with the ministry spokesman saying at least three hostages were killed, although their identities were not immediately known.
Scores of bodies were later discovered in the hotel at the end of the siege.
Chinese state Xinhua news agency said at least seven Chinese nationals were among the hostages, while Turkish Airlines said six of its staff were caught up in the attack.
“It’s all happening on the seventh floor. Jihadists were firing in the corridor,” a security source told AFP earlier.