27 dead after gunmen take hostages in Mali hotel

27 dead after gunmen take hostages in Mali hotel
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A hostage situation is over and at least 27 people are dead, after gunmen stormed a hotel in Bamako, the capital of Mali, on Friday.

One of those killed was an American citizen, according to the State Department.

The attack on the local Radisson Blu began at approximately 7:00 a.m., when two or three attackers armed with AK-47s and grenades entered the hotel shouting “God is great!” in Arabic and firing at guests.

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Dozens were held hostages for hours, and a senior Malian security source told Reuters that some were freed after they were able to recite verses from the Koran.

Special forces launched a counterattack and chased the assailants for several hours on the upper floors of the hotel, killing at least two, according to multiple reports.

It is unclear how many attackers were engaged in the assault, with some reports indicating as many as 13.

The hotel was hosting diplomatic delegations working to foster peace in the politically unstable west-African country.

One of the hostages killed is reported to be Geoffrey Dieudonne, a member of the Belgian parliament.

No terrorist group has immediately claimed culpability for the attack, but news reports say al Qaeda affiliated group Ansar Dine may be responsible. 

The White House issued a statement on Friday condemning the violence and offering condolences to the families of the victims.

“We are prepared to assist the Malian government in the coming days as it investigates this tragic terrorist attack,” the statement said.

Malian special forces entered the hotel to rescue hostages Friday morning, and U.S. Africa Command said that a "small team" of U.S. Special Operations Forces were "assisting in the hostage recovery efforts."

Army Col. Mark Cheadle, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command, said that six U.S. citizens were among those recovered. 

Cheadle also told reporters that there are a total of 26 U.S. military personnel in Mali, and some of those were part of the response.  

The Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel Group, which operates the Radisson, said early Friday that suspected terrorists had taken 140 guests and 30 employees hostage. The hotel later said that 125 guests and 13 employees remained in the building.

The gunmen entered the hotel with AK-47s and started shooting, Olivier Salgado, a spokesperson for the United Nation's mission in Mali, said earlier on CNN's "New Day."

The U.N. official said that apparently the gunmen entered the hotel compound in a car with diplomatic plates.

The White House said that President Obama, who was in Malaysia today, was briefed on the situation by National Security Advisor Susan Rice on Friday morning.

The Mali terrorist attack comes one week after assailants affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) killed at least 130 civilians in France.

This story was updated at 5:59 p.m.