Africa Breaking Terrorism

Three killed as gunmen take 170 hostages in Mali

Security forces escort people fleeing from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. (Harouna Traore/AP)
Security forces escort people fleeing from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. (Harouna Traore/AP)
Written by Malachy Browne

Malian special forces have ended a hostage situation at the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital Bamako Friday, Nov. 20. Here’s what we know:

  • At least two gunmen reportedly stormed the hotel entrance, opening fire while shouting Islamic slogans
  • At least three people were killed; unconfirmed reports are emerging of over a dozen fatalities
  • Around 20 injured people were removed from the hotel
  • Initially 140 guests and 30 staff were reportedly taken hostage
  • 80 were reportedly freed and 124 guests and 13 staff are believed to be still in the hotel (unclear if they are hostages)
  • Malian security forces entered the hotel; France has sent special ops forces (GIGN) to Mali and US forces are assisting
  • The assailants spoke English with an African accent, one escapee said
  • At least 342 people have died in conflict across Mali in 2015 (IRIN)


A France 24 reporter at the scene said that hostages are now exiting the hotel. Local sources (and Reuters) report that the raid by security forces has ended.

A UN official has said that peacekeepers counted 27 bodies, 12 in the lobby and 15 on the first floor of the hotel. This number is unconfirmed.

Over a dozen fatalities are being reported by France 24 (15) and AFP (18). This is not yet confirmed by Malian authorities. No more hostages are being held at the hotel, security forces say.

Mali’s president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita returned to Bamako having cut short a trip to Chad. “Mali will have to get used to situations like this,” he said.


Nationalities safely out of the hotel (tweeted by Mali’s Security Ministry). Those who are not injured have been taken to a sports centre. Six US citizens were also safely removed.

French special forces are confirmed to be at the hotel. We understand this dispatch came from the French base in Gao, northern Mali. Earlier, the French GIGN tweeted that they were sending troops. The exact number is unknown.

US authorities have said that six US citizens were moved from the hotel. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said that he is aware that more US citizens “may” be present at the hotel. Several other international guests were at the hotel, from China, India, Turkey, Morocco and France.

US Special forces are assisting in the response.

From Malian source who has been at the hotel from early on in the attack. “We have been asked to move away. The final assault is being prepared shortly.”

Eyewitness who escaped describes police operation to clear hotel:

Our reporter Marina Petrillo spoke to an Italian resident in Bamako:

French special forces (GIGN) confirm they are sending personnel to Mali:

Air France confirms that 12 of its staff staying at the hotel are safe:

Malian TV says that security forces are clearing the hotel floor by floor and that 80 hostages have been freed. Reports earlier suggested that the attackers were mainly situated on the seventh floor.

Twenty Indian nationals are among the captives:

A guest who escaped the hotel explains (in French) what he witnessed. “The police and security forces helped us get out the building. There are still lots of people in there. I also saw bodies in the lobby, It was absolutely horrible.” [Thanks to Guardian reporter Matthew Weaver for translation].



Video taken by one Chinese hostage inside the hotel:

Around 20 hostages were released, some reportedly after they recited passages of the Koran to the assailants. Harouna Traore of AP photographed security forces escorting people from the hotel (lead photo). Security forces are believed to be inside the hotel.

It is unknown how many Malians are among the hostages. Presumable a high number of the staff are. The hotel is popular among Air France personnel and French nationals are reportedly to be among the guests. Seven Turkish Airline staff were staying in the hotel, according to Daily Sabah. Around 10 Chinese nationals are also in the hotel, according to Le Monde, and they’re reported safe in their rooms so far. Indian and Moroccan nationals are also among the guests, Al Jazeera reports.

Mali’s president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (known as IBK), cut short a trip to Chad to return to the capital.

The unexpected attack on Mali’s south is the second such attack in 2015. Five people were killed in a machine-gun and grenade attack on a bar in Bamako in March. Conflict across the country has claimed 342 lives in 2015 alone, humanitarian news outlet IRIN reports.

In 2014, France sent armed forces to assist Malian forces in driving back the advance of Islamist groups in northern Mali’s Sahel region. France has mining interests in the region, not least for uranium which powers French nuclear plants, a large part of electricity generation in the country. Several thousand French nationals live in Bamako, in the south of the country.

There is speculation that Friday’s attack is related to France’s response to the Paris Attacks.

About the author

Malachy Browne

Malachy was the founding Managing Editor and Europe Anchor of from 2015 until April 2016. Based in Ireland, he worked with the European team to report on international stories emerging through online communities and citizen networks. Malachy has reported on the Arab Spring, conflicts in Ivory Coast, Yemen, Syria and Ukraine, humanitarian crises from Somalia’s famine to Typhoon Haiyan, and social and civil rights movements. He has written about eyewitness media and citizen networks for Al Jazeera, Open Democracy and the European Journalism Centre.

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