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18 dead as Islamist gunmen seize luxury hotel in Mali

Special forces stormed a luxury hotel in Mali on Friday after gunmen seized guests and staff in a hostage crisis that left at least 18 people dead, a week after the jihadist rampage in Paris.

Many of the 170 hostages initially trapped by the suspected Islamists in the besieged Radisson Blu hotel in the Malian capital Bamako were foreigners and a Belgian regional assembly official was reported to be among the dead.

About nine hours after the attack began in a hail of automatic gunfire, the country’s security minister said there were no more hostages after Malian special forces backed by U.S. and French troops stormed the building.

“They currently have no more hostages in their hands and forces are in the process of tracking them down,” Security Minister Salif Traore told a news conference.

Spokesperson of the Malian foreign ministry, Mamadou Ouattara, told The Hindu from Bamako that the military operation was succeeding and the government forces were now inside the hotel. “We are slowly finding out the casualty figure as the forces are clearing the hotel of the terrorists. Eighteen bodies have been recovered so far. Two of the dead are terrorists,” Mr. Ouattara said.