Gunmen have launched an attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in the centre of Mali’s capital, Bamako. “Apparently it’s an attempt to take hostages. The police are there and are sealing off the area,” a security source told Reuters news agency.
Automatic weapon fire could be heard from outside the 190-room hotel, AFP reports.
BBC Afrique’s Abdourahmane Dia says the US-owned hotel is popular with expats working in Mali.
In August, suspected Islamist gunmen killed 13 people, including five UN workers, during a hostage siege at a hotel in the central Malian town of Sevare.
France, the former colonial power in Mali, intervened in the country after al-Qaeda-linked militants threatened to march on Bamako in January 2013 after taking control of the north of the country.
The US embassy in Bamako has tweeted that it “is aware of an ongoing active shooter operation at the Radisson Hotel”.
All US citizens were asked “to shelter in place” and “encouraged to contact their families”.
“It’s all happening on the seventh floor, jihadists are firing in the corridor,” a security source told AFP.
Witnesses say the police have surrounded the hotel and are blocking roads leading into the neighbourhood.
The Rezidor Hotel Group, which owns the Radisson Blu, said it was aware of “the hostage-taking that is ongoing at the property today”.
“As per our information two persons have locked in 140 guests and 30 employees,” AFP quotes its statement as saying.
The UN force in Mali took over responsibility for security in the country from French troops in July 2013.
Militancy in Mali
- October 2011: Ethnic Tuaregs launch rebellion after returning with arms from Libya
- March 2012: Army coup over government’s handling of rebellion, a month later Tuareg and al-Qaeda-linked fighters seize control of north
- June 2012: Islamist groups capture Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao from Tuaregs, start to destroy Muslim shrines and manuscripts and impose Sharia
- January 2013: Islamist fighters capture a central town, raising fears they could reach Bamako. Mali requests French help
- July 2013: UN force, now totalling about 12,000, takes over responsibility for securing the north after Islamists routed from towns
- July 2014: France launches an operation in the Sahel to stem jihadist groups
- Attacks continue in northern desert area, blamed on Tuareg and Islamist groups
- 2015: Terror attacks in the capital, Bamako, and central Mali – BBC