Friday, November 20, 2015

BREAKING: U.S. Special Forces Storm Radisson Hotel in Mali; Jihadists Hold 100+ Hostages

From the Daily Mail:
Jihadists kill three as they go 'floor to floor' screaming 'Allahu Akbar' during AK-47 rampage at Mali hotel and take 170 hostages before freeing those who could recite the Koran
  • Radison Blu hotel under attack by jihadists armed with AK-47s and hand grenades in Malian capital of Bamako
  • Up to 10 gunmen have taken dozens of hostages inside the Radisson hotel while 80 people have escaped unharmed
  • Gunmen spoke in English and tested hostages' knowledge of the Koran before allowing Muslim hostages to leave
  • U.S. embassy confirms government employees are among the terrified hostages trapped inside the Radisson Blu hotel
  • US Special Forces lead elite operation to clear the building one floor at a time amid deadly hostage crisis
  • At least three people have been killed including one French national and US embassy have urged American nationals to 'shelter in place' from attack
Armed jihadists have killed at least three people in a deadly shooting rampage and taken 170 hostages at the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali. 
Automatic weapons fire has been heard on the seventh floor of the 190-room hotel, where it is thought as many as 10 militants have been going floor to floor and taken 140 guests and 30 members of staff hostage. 
Witnesses described how the gunmen allowed around 20 hostages to leave safely after they proved they were able to recite verses of the Koran to the militants. US and French Special Forces have reportedly stormed the hotel and have began to clear the building one floor at a time. 
The US embassy has confirmed that several American government personnel are trapped inside the besieged hotel. 
No group has claimed responsibility for the hotel attack, which is frequently used by Air France crew, although Al Qaeda affiliated militants have previously carried out attacks in Mali. 
Several witnesses have claimed that the gunmen entered through the gates of the hotel in a car with a diplomatic number plate before opening fire with AK-47s and throwing grenades inside the building. The gunmen were also speaking to the hostages in English, according to one freed hostage. 
'I heard them say in English 'Did you load it?', 'Let's go,' revealed Guinean singer Sekouba 'Bambino' Diabate, who was freed by Malian security forces. 
'I wasn't able to see them because in these kinds of situations it's hard. I woke up with the sounds of gunshots and for me, it was just small bandits who came in the hotel to claim something. After 20 or 30 minutes, I realized these are not just petty criminals,' said Mr Diabate. 
The hotel's head of security, Seydou Dembele, said two private security guards had been shot in the legs in the early stages of the assault. 
'We saw two of the attackers. One was wearing a balaclava. The other was black-skinned. They forced the first barrier,' Dembele told Reuters. 
Within minutes of the assault, police and then soldiers had surrounded the hotel and were blocking roads leading into the neighbourhood. 
Two Malians and one French national have been killed while two workers for Turkish Airlines and 10 Chinese nationals are thought to be among the hostages. 
12 members of the Air France crew have been released from the hotel following a raid by Malian special forces while five other Turkish Airlines employees have managed to escape from the hotel, Turkish officials confirmed. 
'The whole of the Air France team is now in a safe place,' an Air France statement said, indicating it was in 'constant contact' with its team of two pilots and 10 cabin crew members. 
US Special Forces have reportedly been assisting with the rescue operation to clear the building of hostages and take out the armed jihadis. 
The French intelligence service has also been providing invaluable logistical support for the operation and have confirmed they have dispatched a unit of special forces to Bamako. 
Our special forces have freed hostages and 30 others were able to escape on their own. We have sealed all the exit points of the hotel, so be assured none of the hostage takers will be able to escape.' Security Minister Salif Traore told AFP. 
The Rezidor Hotel Group confirmed it is '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,' the statement 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. 
The US embassy in Bamako has urged embassy staff to seek cover from the attack, tweeting that all Americans in Mali should 'shelter in place'.

Malian Special Forces have been seen outside the hotel and are assessing the situation while France's national security service have confirmed that about 40 members of the French National Gendarmerie Intervention Group are en route to Bamako. 
A spokesman for the service said they are heading from two different units of special police forces trained for emergency situations. British Special Forces are in Mali and also expected to head towards Bamako to help with the terror operation. 
Michael Skapoullis, who escaped the besieged hotel today, told the BBC: 'We live in a complex near the Radisson hotel. Every day I go to the [Radisson] gym from 6 to 8 in th emorning. 
'Today, after 7-ish, it was extremely quiet, there were two people inside the gym. They left and I was a bit worried. 
'We had the music on all the time at the gym so I didn't hear any gunshots. I left the gym and I tried to go in the lobby. 
'I opened the lobby door slowly, slowly, and I saw bullets on the ground. So I closed the door of the lobby and I went door to door, I went back in the gym, and from the gym I left the hotel. 
'Outside the hotel, there were police and military crew who escorted me and brought me to my house.' 
The horrific terror attacks comes just a few days after ISIS gunmen massacred 129 people on the streets of Paris. 
Suicide bombers targeted the Stade de France, cafes and restaurants as well as taking dozens of hostages at a death metal concert at the Bataclan theatre.
The co-ordinated attack was later claimed by ISIS, leading to a mass police hunt for one of the surviving gunmen and the ringleader of the deadly attack. 
Fears remain that the attack in Bamako may be linked or inspired by the Paris attack, where French nationals were targeted for the government's decision to carry out air strikes against ISIS. 
French president Francois Hollande says France is ready to help Mali with all means necessary in the wake of the hotel attack in the capital, Bamako.
Hollande asks all French citizens in Mali to make contact with the French Embassy there 'in order that everything is made to offer them protection.' 
'We should yet again stand firm and show our solidarity with a friendly country, Mali,' Mr Hollande said in a short statement. 
In Belgium, Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said there were four Belgians registered at the attacked hotel but it's unclear if they were taken hostage by the gunmen or not. 
Reynders also said there are '15 hostages who have been freed after an intervention' but didn't provide more details. 
In response to the terror attack in Bamako, Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has cut short its tip to Chad where he was attending a meeting of regional leaders. 
The Mali presidency said on Twitter that Mr Keita will be back to Bamako 'in the next hours'. 
Mali, a former colony of France, has been battling several terror groups, predominantly located in the north of the country.
French special forces have been assisting the Malian army in their long standing counter-terrorism operation against militants from Ansar ad-Din, al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and Tuareg rebels.

The shooting in Mali follows a nearly 24-hour siege and hostage-taking at another hotel in August in the central Malian town of Sevare. 
Four soldiers, five UN workers and four attackers were killed in the deadly attack, thought to have been carried out by Al-Qaeda linked militants. 
Islamist groups have been waging attacks in Mali despite a June peace deal between former Tuareg rebels in the north of the country and rival pro-government armed groups. 
Northern Mali fell in March-April 2012 to Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist groups long concentrated in the area before being ousted by an ongoing French-led military operation launched in January 2013. 
Despite the peace deal, large swathes of Mali remain beyond the control of government and foreign forces. 

No comments:

Post a Comment