At least 27 dead after Islamists seize luxury hotel in Mali's capital
Updated: 2015-11-20 23:13
Malian security forces escort a hostage freed from the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako on November 20, 2015.[Photo/IC]
BURSTS OF GUNFIRE
Occasional bursts of gunfire were heard as the assailants went through the seven-storey building, room-by-room and floor-by-floor, one senior security source and a witness told Reuters.
Some people were freed by the attackers after showing they could recite verses from the Koran, while others were brought out by security forces or managed to escape under their own steam.
One of the rescued hostages, celebrated Guinean singer Sékouba 'Bambino' Diabate, said he had overheard two of the assailants speaking in English as they searched the room next to his.
"We heard shots coming from the reception area. I didn't dare go out of my room because it felt like this wasn't just simple pistols - these were shots from military weapons," Diabate told Reuters by phone.
"The attackers went into the room next to mine. I stayed still, hidden under the bed, not making a noise," he said. "I heard them say in English 'Did you load it?', 'Let's go'."
The raid on the hotel, which lies just west of the city centre near government ministries and diplomatic offices, came a week after Islamic State militants killed 129 people in Paris, raising fears that French nationals were being specifically targeted.
Twelve Air France flight crew were in the building but all were extracted safely, the French national carrier said.
A Turkish official said five of seven Turkish Airlines staff had also managed to flee. China's Xinhua news agency said four of 10 Chinese tourists caught inside had been rescued.