GUNMEN armed with grenades have killed nine people and taken 170 people hostage at a hotel “where Air France crew stay”.
Around ten Islamist terrorists arrived at the Radisson Hotel in Mali’s capital Bamako at 7am and started shooting on the seventh floor.
They entered shouting “allahu akbar” and explosions were heard, according to news reports. Gunmen allowed hostages who could recite verses of the Koran to escape, security sources said.
Among the hostages are French military, Air France employees and Thales personnel. Turkish Airlines say they have six members of staff inside the hotel. And officials in China say there are seven Chinese nationals being held hostage.
Crew from France’s national airline often stay on the seventh floor, a French newspaper has reported.
The attack comes just a week after IS gunmen went on the rampage in Paris killing 132 people.
France has stationed around 1,000 troops in the country – a former French colony – after Islamic extremists took control of northern Mali in 2012.
A senior security source said: “Very early in the morning there was gunfire.
“Apparently it’s an attempt to take hostages. The police are there and are sealing off the area.”
It is unclear at this stage if any Brits are in the hotel.
A member of staff who gave his name as Tamba Diarra told Sky News over the phone the attackers used grenades in the assault.
A spokesperson for the hotel said: “The Rezidor Hotel Group… is aware of the hostage-taking that is ongoing at the property today, 20th November 2015.
“As per our information two persons have locked in 140 guests and 30 employees.” A Mali army commander says 10 gunmen are in the hotel.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are in contact with local authorities and urgently seeking further information following reports of an incident at the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali.
“The Foreign Office has advised against all travel to Mali for some time.”
The US Embassy in Mali asked American citizens and its staffers to remain indoors.
The embassy, in a tweet, called it an “ongoing active shooter operation”.
In August, Islamist gunmen killed 13 people, including five UN workers, during a siege at a hotel in Sevare, Mali.
Five people were killed in a machine-gun and grenade attack by Islamist extremists at the nearby La Terrasse bar and restaurant in March.