Mali hotel group says 138 people still inside hotel
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) —
The latest on the attack on a hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako. (All times local):
The Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel group that operates the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako when the assault began says 125 guests and 13 employees are still in the hotel. Separately, Germany’s foreign minister says that two Germans who were taken hostage in the hotel have been set free. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters on Friday during a visit to Zambia that is unclear whether any other Germans were in the hotel, the dpa news agency reported.
Malian state TV says 80 people who were in the hotel in Bamako when the assault began have now been freed. The special forces were continuing their operation to end the standoff. Earlier, the Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel group that operates the Bamako hotel said the assailants had “locked in” 140 guests and 30 employees in the attack on Friday. Malian troops reacted quickly. As people ran for their lives near the hotel along a dirt road, the soldiers in full combat gear pointed the way to safety. Within hours, local TV images showed heavily armed troops in what appeared to be a lobby area.
President Barack Obama says he’s monitoring the situation playing out in Mali. Obama made the brief comment about hotel attack after a meeting in Kuala Lumpur with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. He didn’t offer any additional details. The White House says Obama was briefed about the attack by his national security adviser, Susan Rice. White House officials say Obama has asked to be kept updated about new developments.
Malian army commander, Modibo Nama Traore, says Malian special forces have entered the hotel and are freeing hostages “floor by floor.” He says at least 30 hostages have been freed already and that Malian security forces are trying to make contact with the assailants.
Traore says at least one guest earlier reported that the attackers instructed him to recite verses from the Quran before he was allowed to leave the hotel.
Air France says 12 members of one of its plane crew who are staying at the attacked hotel in Bamako are all safe. Air France spokeswoman Ulli Gendrot told The Associated Press that the “the crew is in a safe place.” She said the 12 included two pilots.
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.”
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.
Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has cut short its tip to Chad where he was attending a meeting of G5 Sahel. The Mali presidency said on Twitter that Keita will be back to Bamako “in the next hours.” Meanwhile, France’s national gendarme service says about 50 elite police troops are en route from Paris to Bamako. A spokesman for the service who was not authorized to be publicly named said they are heading Friday from two different units of special police forces trained for emergency situations.
-Nicolas Vaux-Montagny in Paris
Air France has cancelled its Paris-Bamako flight after gunmen attacked a hotel in the Mali capital. Air France spokesman Ulli Gendrot said the “3852 flight has been canceled.” It was due later Friday. The attackers seized about 170 hostages on Friday morning at the Radisson Blu Hotel. A Malian military official has said at least three people are confirmed dead in the attack and that more than 100 hostages are believed to be held.