Mali: Gunmen attack Radisson Blu hotel, take hostages

Witnesses say police had surrounded the hotel & had blocked off roads leading into the area.

FILE: The RadissonBlu Hotel in Mali. Picture: Supplied.

MALI/CAPE TOWN - Gunmen attacked a luxury hotel frequented by foreigners in Mali's capital Bamako early on Friday and are believed to be holding around 170 hostages according to AFP.

The raid targeted the Radisson Blu hotel, located just west of the city center in a neighborhood that is home to government ministries and diplomats.

Northern Mali was occupied by Islamist fighters, some with links to al Qaeda for most of 2012.

Although they were driven out by a French-led military operation, sporadic violence continues.

"Early this morning there was gunfire. The police are there and are sealing off the area," a security source told Reuters.

Witnesses in the area said police had surrounded the hotel and were blocking roads leading into the neighborhood.

US EMBASSY

The US Embassy tweeted that it was "aware of an ongoing active shooter operation at the Radisson Hotel," and instructed its citizens to stay indoors.

US citizens were warned to take precautionary measures to ensure their safety.

"Ensure your personal communications devices are usable in a crisis, and fully employ any safety measures (locks, grills, alarms,) at your residence," the embassy warned in a statement.

SECURITY MESSSAGE (1/4) The Embassy is aware of an ongoing active shooter operation at the Radisson Hotel.

SECURITY MESSAGE (2/4) The U.S. Embassy staff has been asked to shelter in place. All U.S. citizens should shelter in place.

SECURITY MESSAGE (3/4) Private U.S. citizens are encouraged to contact their families.

SECURITY MSG 4/4 Monitor local media for updates. US citizens should adhere to the instructions of local authorities and monitor local media

An Islamist group claimed responsibility for the death of five people last March in an attack on a restaurant in Bamako popular with foreigners.

This comes after several people were killed in a hostage siege in Sévaré, a town in the Mopti region of Mali, during August.

On 3 August, the US Embassy in Mali issued a security message to US citizens informing them of a heightened security risk to "westerners in southern Mali" including the area outside Bamako city.

Note: Additional reporting by Reuters.