At least 27 killed, 7 Turks saved in Mali hostage siege

At least 27 killed, 7 Turks saved in Mali hostage siege

At least 27 killed, 7 Turks saved in Mali hostage siege

Malian troops take position outside the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako on November 20, 2015. AFP photo

At least 27 people have been killed after gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital and took around 170 hostages on Nov. 20, a U.N. official told Reuters, while seven Turkish Airlines staff members in the hotel have been rescued. 

United Nations peacekeepers saw some 27 bodies on two separate floors of a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital Bamako which was attacked on Nov. 20, a U.N. official told Reuters, citing preliminary information. 

The peacekeepers saw 12 corpses in the basement of the hotel and another 15 on the second floor, the official said, on condition of anonymity. He added U.N. troops were still helping Malian authorities search the hotel.

The gunmen no longer held any hostages after a rescue operation by special forces was conducted, Agence France-Press reported Malian Security Minister Salif Traore as saying. 

“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 a stand-off of several hours at Bamako’s Radisson Blu hotel.

Meanwhile, seven Turkish Airlines staff members were released from the luxury hotel, the Turkish Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying by private broadcaster NTV. 

The Turkish hostages were identified, only by their initials, as chief pilot İ.Y., co-pilot S.M.A and cabin crew members M.G., Ş.T.K., L.D.K. and E.S.

Turkish Airlines sent a plane to fetch the rescued staff who are being kept in Turkish Embassy in Bamako.

Turkish Airlines press adviser Ali Genç initially said they had established contact with two Turkish Airlines personnel who were held hostage in the hotel, as initially five of them had been rescued.

“There were seven friends at the hotel, six of them are cabin crew and one is an attendant there. Five of them were rescued and are now with our ambassador in good condition. The other two friends are in good condition, too,” said Genç, adding an airplane was on standby to repatriate the personnel.

Agence France-Press reported two gunmen were killed in the Mali hotel siege, quoting a Malian military source. 

A local security source indicated a number of hostages who could recite verses from the Quran were released, as reported by Anadolu Agency. 

Malian soldiers, police and special forces were on the scene as a security perimeter was set up, along with members of the U.N.’s MINUSMA peacekeeping force in Mali and French troops fighting jihadists in west Africa under Operation Barkhane.     

United Nations deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said U.N. “quick-reaction forces” were deployed to the siege area and were supporting Malian and other security forces but the U.N. peacekeeping troops were not conducting operations, the Associated Press reported. He said the United Nations had a few staff members in the hotel at the time of the attack but they were all safely out of the hotel.

An African jihadist group affiliated with al-Qaeda, Al-Mourabitoun, claimed responsibility on Nov. 20 for the attack on the 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 on the Radisson Blu hotel. The claim could not immediately be verified.

The Rezidor Hotel Group, the U.S.-based parent company of Radisson Blu, said two people were holding 170 people hostage.     

The company said it was “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 shooting at the Radisson follows a nearly 24-hour siege and hostage-taking at another hotel in August in the central Malian town of Sevare, in which five U.N. workers were killed along with four soldiers and four attackers.