Gunmen have taken 170 people hostage, including 140 guests and 30 employees at the Radisson Blu Hotel in the Malian capital Bamako on Friday, the hotel said in a statement.
“Two persons have locked in 140 guests and 30 employees. Our safety and security teams and our corporate team are in constant contact with local authorities,” The Rezidor Hotel Group, the operator of the Radisson Blu Hotel, said in a statement.
At least seven Chinese nationals are reportedly among the 170 hostages, Chinese diplomatic sources in Mali told Anadolu Agency.
At least three people, including two security guards were reportedly killed when attackers stormed the hotel, which is popular with foreigners and UN staff, at around 8.30 a.m. local time (0830GMT), local security sources said. However, Malian officials are yet to release an official death toll in the ongoing incident.
According to eye-witnesses, the number of hostage takers is between three and five, who arrived at the hotel in a stolen car with diplomatic number plates. The gunmen opened fire immediately, killing the guards and injuring several other people.
Automatic gunfire and at least one explosion were heard coming from the 190-room Radisson Blu hotel in the city’s northwestern Hamdallaye neighborhood.
“The security forces are trying to dislodge [the attackers] and an exchange of fire can still be heard,” a security official told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.
Gunfire could be heard reverberating around the district throughout the morning as security forces established a cordon.
The U.S. embassy instructed its staff to seek shelter via its official Twitter account.
In August, 13 people, including four UN workers, were killed in an attack on a hotel in the town Sevare, around 600 kilometers (370 miles) north of Bamako.
In recent years Mali has been hit by a number of attacks launched by insurgents operating from its northern desert territory.
In 2013, a French-led military operation succeeded in driving fighters out of cities and towns seized a year earlier in the north of the country. France still has troops based in the west African country.
Ansar Dine, a Malian group with links to al-Qaeda, has previously claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on UN peacekeepers and the Malian army in Bamako and areas near the Ivory Coast and Mauritania borders. Tuareg separatists are also active in the north.