Dozens Feared Dead After Gunmen Seize Hostages in Mali Hotel

At least 27 people have reportedly been killed and all other hostages freed after gunmen stormed a hotel in Mali on Friday morning.

Up to 10 armed men attacked the Radisson Blu hotel, where UN officials were holding an event, in the Malian capital of Bamako. Approximately 140 guests and 30 staff were initially captured. The hostages included American, Turkish, French, Indian, Chinese, and Guinean citizens.

Malian and international troops, including U.S. special forces, launched a counter-attack shortly after the siege began.

Al Jazeera reports that the gunmen drove up to the luxury hotel in vehicles bearing diplomatic license plates, which helped them gain easy access. According to witnesses, the gunmen spoke both in Arabic and English. Al-Mourabitoun, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Attacks have spread throughout Mali this year despite a peace deal formed in June between pro-government forces and roving Tuareg rebel groups. As IRIN News explains, much of the recent violence swelled after international forces “pushed Islamist militants out of their northern strongholds in January 2013.” Those forces included the French, the former colonial power in Mali.

Investigative journalist Nick Turse also noted Friday on Twitter that Mali is considered an “anti-terror bulwark,” even as its U.S.-backed military was defeated by rebel forces during the January 2013 uprising, leading army officials to overthrow the democratically elected government.

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As Turse wrote in a piece for TomDispatch last year:

The humanitarian impact of the destabilization is vast. IRIN News continues:

This situation is still developing. The Guardian is providing live updates here.

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