Gunmen have taken 170 hostages in a hotel in Mali.
According to AFP sources, the gunmen are Islamic militants.
Some 140 guests and 30 staff at the Radisson hotel in the centre of Mali’s capital city, Bamako, were taken hostage at 8am this morning by gunmen.
According to the Malaise security ministry, three hostages have been killed.
Local media say there were 10 attackers but a statement from the hotel said there are two. One witness said the attackers shouted “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is great” in Arabic as they stormed the hotel. A BFMTV source claimed the attackers arrived in a car with diplomatic plates.
Malaise troops have surrounded the area and a Reuters security source said two hostages have been released after reciting verses from the Koran.
The Foreign Office said in a statement that they are urgently seeking information regarding the attack and added: “The Foreign Office has advised against all travel to Mali for some time.”
The President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita tweeted: “Bamako’s Radisson Blu hotel has been attacked this morning by armed assailants who are holding 170 people hostage.”
China’s news agency Xinhua reported that a number of guests being held are Chinese, the US embassy in Mali has advised their citizens to take shelter.
The hotel has 190 rooms and is owned by US investors, it is advertised online as a an upscale lodging with a swimming pool and a spa.
Mali has been fighting Islamic rebels since 2012. France sent ground troops to Mali in January 2013 at the behest of the Malaise government when rebels with connections to al-Qaida seized territory northern Mali and around 1,000 French troops are currently stationed in Mali.
Islamic extremists lost much of their territory during the fight but continued their activities in Mali, last August an a attack was made on a hotel in Severe in central Mali, five people were killed while four UN workers were saved.
Until now, Bamako, in the south western part of Mali, had been spared from attacks by Islamic extremists.
Mali is a former French colony in western Africa, French authorities have intervened several times in Malaise affairs since the country gained its independence in 1960.
Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, more than half its citizens earn 1.25$ per day.
Some 98 per cent of the population identifies as a Muslim, a significant portion of the nation’s legislation derives from Sharia law.
A report made by the US State department characterised the Islam as is traditionally practiced in Mali as moderate, tolerant, and adapted to local conditions.
Malaise women are generally allowed to participate in social economical and political activities and do not wear veils while in public.