BAMAKO—Malian officials said there are no more hostages being held at a luxury hotel attacked by Islamist militants Friday morning.
It was not clear if Malian forces have cleared out the all the gunmen who stormed the Radisson Blu in Bamako, a hotel popular with Westerners.
Earlier reports said the militants took 170 captives. About 80 have been freed, while gunmen have killed at least three.
The U.S. military’s Africa Command says the rescued hostages include six U.S. citizens. It says U.S. military personnel are helping outside the hotel.
At least four gunmen originally stormed the hotel. Reports said the gunmen released hostages who were able to recite the Quran.
Reuters news agency reports that Al-Mourabitoun, an northern Mali-based jihadist group affiliated with al-Qaida, has claimed responsibility for the attack. There was no way to verify the claim.
Mali has been battling rebels linked to al-Qaida for several years, and al-Qaida-linked groups claimed responsibility for an attack earlier this year on another hotel in southern Mali.
France is sending a paramilitary team that specializes in hostage situations to assist in the rescue operations. Mali is a former French colony.
As we know, they are mostly conducting anti-terrorist operations in the north of the country,” she said. “Not that many are stationed in the capital.”
Obama monitoring situation
U.S. President Barack Obama, who is in Malaysia, said he is monitoring the situation in Mali. He has asked his staff to keep him up to date on developments.
Authorities say the gunmen arrived at the hotel in a vehicle with diplomatic license plates.
The U.S. embassy in Mali said in a statement Friday, “The embassy is aware of an ongoing active shooter operation at the Radisson Hotel.” The embassy urged all U.S. citizens and the embassy staff to “shelter in place.”
A security source said the gunmen were on the seventh floor of the hotel. “Jihadists are firing in the corridor,” the source told AFP.
Mali urged its residents to stay where they are and not venture out during the hotel siege.
The attack in Mali underscores the threat posed by Islamist militants who remain active in northern and central Mali despite the presence of U.N. peacekeepers.
A French-led military force ousted Islamist groups from power in northern Mali in 2013. The groups had seized power in the north after a military coup in Bamako in 2012.
An attack in the capital in March at a restaurant popular with tourists killed five people.