Terrorists Take Hostages At Mali Hotel

Terrorists in Bamako, Mali stormed a popular tourist hotel early Friday morning, taking several dozen hostages and leaving several dead, according to reports. Mali's security minister said Friday that, hours after the siege began, "no more hostages" were being held, AFP reports.

According to Reuters, U.N. peacekeeping troops found 27 bodies in the hotel following the siege, though their search was ongoing.

The investigation is still developing. Initial estimates pegged the number of hostages at about 170. Al-Mourabitoun, an African Jihadist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attacks at Bamako's Radisson Blu hotel. Militants reportedly drove up to the hotel unquestioned in a vehicle bearing diplomatic markings.

"They were driving a vehicle with diplomatic plates," Kamissoko Lassine, the chief pastry chef at the hotel, told the New York Times. "You know how easy that is at the hotel? The guards just lifted the barrier."

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According to the U.S. Africa Command Twitter account, Malian forces took the lead in the rescue operation, with a small team of U.S. Special Operations Forces assisting in the mission.

Early Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Bamako, Mali's capital city, tweeted out warnings of an active shooter, and posted an advisory on its Facebook page.

SECURITY MESSAGE FROM THE US EMBASSY IN BAMAKO:The security incident at the Radisson Hotel is ongoing and all U.S....

Posted by Ambassade des Etats-Unis au Mali on Friday, November 20, 2015

The attacks come just one week after militants with links to the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) carried out a series of attacks in the French capital of Paris, leaving 130 dead and hundreds more injured, according to the latest reports. Before the Al Qaeda-linked group claimed responsibility, reports indicated that the attackers were Jihadists, and apparently allowed those in the hotel who could recite a profession of Muslim faith to leave.

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Mali has struggled in the past with Jihadist groups, and in 2012, rebels, including Al Qaeda militants, combed the country's north, capturing towns and villages. When militant forces advanced towards Bamako in 2013, France sent troops to assist in the fight against them, leading to a short period of calm, disrupted when fighters took hold of a gas production facility in nearby Algeria. Of the many hostages who were taken in that siege, 38 were killed.

France maintains a troop presence in the country, but there are regular attacks by Islamist militants in the north, and even small-scale attacks in Bamako. Though Al Qaeda-linked fighters claimed responsibility for Friday's attacks, it was unclear if they had anything to do with French involvement in the region, or French airstrikes targeting IS strongholds in Syria.