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.
Malian army commander Modibo Nama Traore said the gunmen stormed the hotel Friday morning shouting “Allahu Akbar” or “God is great” in Arabic before firing on the guards and taking hostages.
Automatic weapons fire has been heard on the seventh floor of the 190-room hotel, where it is thought as many as 12 militants have 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.
No group have 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 the hotel in a car with a diplomatic number plate before opening fire in the building.
Two Malians and one French national have been killed while six workers for Turkish Airlines and seven Chinese nationals are thought to be among the hostages.
‘It’s all happening on the seventh floor, jihadists are firing in the corridor,’ a security source said.
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’.
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.
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.