Today's Paper

27 killed as special forces storm hotel, free hostages

At least 27 people were reported dead on Friday as Malian special forces, aided by the U.S. and French commandos, stormed a luxury hotel in Bamako, where gunmen had held at least 170 people, including 22 Indians, hostage.

Two gunmen were among the dead, according to a spokesperson of the Malian Foreign Ministry. Security Minister Salif Traore said there were no more hostages inside the Radisson Blu hotel, but the government troops were still fighting gunmen. India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson also confirmed that all Indian hostages “have been safely evacuated.”

“They [attackers] currently have no more hostages in their hands and forces are in the process of tracking them down,” Mr. Traore told a news conference in Bamako.

Mamadou Ouattara, the spokesperson of the Malian Foreign Ministry, told The Hindu from Bamako on the phone that the authorities were trying to find out if the terrorists were part of Islamist rebel groups from the east and northeast of Mali or entered the country to attack the hotel.

“We were determined to give them no time to booby trap the hotel and launched the assault within hours of the attack,” he said, explaining that quick action prevented more casualties.

Gunmen had entered the 190-room hotel compound in Bamako at around 7 a.m. in a car with diplomatic plates and automatic gunfire was heard from outside, security sources said. The hotel’s owner, the Rezidor Hotel Group, said 170 guests and staff were initially trapped, with employees of the French and Turkish national airlines as well as Indians and Chinese known to be among those staying there.

“Our initial estimate was that five terrorists entered the hotel in the morning shouting Allahu Akbar and shooting and throwing grenades at the guards. But we have revised our estimate subsequently. We now believe that the terrorists came in a larger group,” Mr. Ouattara said.

The Indian hostages were reportedly working in the hotel on contract for an Indian wholesaler and manpower provider named Dev Bolani.

Earlier a Malian diplomat said: “Mr. Bolani contacted us from Dubai to tell us that all the Indian workers are physically safe and are being held in an enclosure adjacent to the hotel’s main building.”