Bamako, Mali – A group of gunmen stormed the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali’s capital, this Friday morning, killing at least three people and holding about 170 hostages -although some were released quickly.

Until now, there’s no claim of responsibility from any known group or association, as the identity or affiliation of the attackers hasn’t been clear. However, the NY Times reported that there were indications that Muslims were released, and no-Muslims continue to be in hands of the attackers.

People run to flee from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali. Until now, there may be three dead and 170 people held as hostages. Credit: Harouna Traore/AP

Although authorities haven’t linked these events to last week’s Paris attacks, it is known that Mali is a city where French forces try to fight back the Islamists rebel groups, since they once had control over a great portion of the country that goes from West Africa and extends to Algeria. Moreover, Mali once was a French colony until the 1960s.

According to Reuters, a senior security source said that some of the hostages were freed after being asked to recite from memory some of the verses from the Koran. The Malian security ministry, according to Le Monde, stated that at least three hostages had been killed on the Radisson Blu hotel, placed west of the city center, near the government ministries and diplomatic offices. The hotel is a largely popular place for foreigns to stay in Bamako, and some of the hostages are French and American.

Gary Ellis, manager of the hotel, stated that 90 percent of the staff was able to escape and that it is uncertain how many people are still in the hotel. Pantap Barry, a street bike racer that was standing outside the hotel, said that he saw soldiers inside the hotel and on the roof, according to the NY Times.

A security source reported to Reuters that as many as 10 gunmen attacked the building, shooting and screaming “Allahu Akbar”. Also, the hotel’s head of security stated that two private security guards were injured when the attack began, approximately at 7 a.m. (0200 ET).

“They were driving a vehicle with diplomatic plates,” said Kamissoko Lasines, the chief pastry chef of the hotel. “You know how easy that is at the hotel? The guardians just lifted the barrier. They opened fire and wounded the guard at the front. They took the hotel hostage and moved people into a big hall,” he said, according to the NY Times Mr. Lassine was able to escape through a back door, and he is safe now.

Some of the hostages released, including people from Mali, were naked as they were taken to a police station. A hostage, who didn’t want to be named, told to his friend in Bamako that a group of people was being held in the roof the Radisson Blu, along with the body of a person that was killed during the attack. According to the NY Times, the French consulate told hostages to stay put and wait for a military assault to be made by a United Nations Force, as well with the Malian Army and the French intelligence service.

It is known that the operator of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako was in contact with the United States Embassy, as they are aware of the situation, and issued a warning to their staff members and all American citizens to stay in a safe place.

The Islamic state doesn’t forget

Although there hasn’t been any formal claim of responsibility, some supporters of the Islamic State are celebration these attacks on twitter, with the hashtag #MaliIsBurning. Last March, an Islamist group claimed responsibility after the death of five people in an attack on a restaurant in Bamako.

Also, in August, 17 people were killed during an attack on a hotel in central Mali, a region claimed by the Sahara-based Islamist militant group Al-Mourabitoun. According to Reuters, an Islamic State militant in Syria told them that the organization used the France’s military intervention in Mali as another reason to attack the country.

“This is just the beginning. We also haven’t forgotten what happened in Mali,” said the non-Syrian fighter, who was contacted online by Reuters. “The bitterness from Mali, the arrogance of the French, will not be forgotten at all.”

Source: The NY Times