How Many Americans Are In The Mali Hotel? Officials Don't Know For Sure How Many Are Still Inside
Update: The situation at the Radisson Blu hotel is now reportedly under control after several harrowing hours, at least according to Malian general Didier Dacko, who told The New York Times that the perimeter of the hotel is secure, and that forces are "inside looking for the terrorists." The reported human cost of the attack, however, is high — the United Nations believes no less than 27 people were killed, after a reported 100 or so were taken hostage earlier in the day. According to CNN, six Americans so far have been saved from the hotel, and at least two of the gunmen have been killed.
Earlier: Gunmen stormed and seized a Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali, Friday morning, according to the New York Times. The gunmen, who shouted "God is great" in Arabic and have killed three people so far, took more than 170 people hostage, according to the Times. The gunmen have since released about 80 people, and U.S. and Malian special forces have evacuated about 30 additional people. How many Americans were in the Mali hotel? Six Americans have been rescued from the hotel, according to Reuters. An American defense official told the Times that between 12 and 15 Americans were staying in the hotel when the gunmen seized it, though it's unclear how many are still inside or what their status is.
In addition to the American and Malian forces who were already on the ground in Bamako, French President Francois Hollande said France would "use all the means available to us on the ground to free the hostages," according to Reuters. France has been involved in fighting against Islamic extremists — mostly from al Qaeda — in Mali for the last few years, and French forces even use Bamako as a "logistics hub," according to the Washington Post. The attack on the Radisson occurred almost exactly one week after eight gunmen and suicide bombers attacked six different locations in Paris on behalf of ISIS. ISIS didn't immediately claim responsibility for the attack Friday morning, though the Times noted that ISIS supporters were celebrating both the attacks on Paris and Mali with hashtags that seemed to connect them to ISIS.
MSNBC tweeted Friday that U.S. government personnel were in the hotel when the gunmen stormed it and that they may have been employees within the Department of Defense. Jim Miklaszewski of MSNBC later reported that a senior defense official confirmed that there were about 25 U.S. military personnel at the hotel as part of a U.N. peacekeeping conference. Miklaszewski said the U.S. officials "informally sprang into action" and helped organize the early evacuation on the upper floors when the gunmen first entered the hotel.
Among the three dead was an official from the Belgian regional assembly, according to Reuters, but it's unclear who the other two people are. The Telegraph reported that the gunmen are part of an African jihadist group that's affiliated with al Qaeda. The group goes by the name Al-Mourabitoun, and it took responsibility for the attack on the Radisson on Twitter, according to the Telegraph.