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Malian, US and French troops end seven-hour siege by Islamic extremists


Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for an attack and hostage drama at the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali. Photo / AP

Heavily armed Islamic extremists seized dozens of hostages at a
Radisson hotel, but Malian troops, backed by and French special
forces, swarmed in to retake the building and free many of the captives.
least 20 people, including one American, were killed along with two
gunmen during the more than seven-hour siege from Friday until early
yesterday, a Malian military commander said.
An extremist group
led by former al-Qaeda commander Moktar Belmoktar claimed responsibility
for the attack in the former French colony, and many in saw it
as a new assault on their country’s interests a week after the Paris
French President Francois Hollande did not link the
violence at the Radisson Blu hotel with last week’s bloodshed in Paris,
he declared that France would stand by the West African country.
again, terrorists want to make their barbaric presence felt everywhere,
where they can kill, where they can massacre. So we should once again
show our solidarity with our ally, Mali,” he said.

President Barack Obama called the attack a reminder of the
“scourge of ” and said its barbaric nature only “stiffens our
Malian state television said yesterday the Government
had announced a 10-day state of emergency and a three-day period of
mourning beginning tomorrow.
Army Commander Modibo Nama Traore
said 20 people had been killed, including an official with Mali’s
gendarmerie, and five people were injured including two police officers.
American killed was Anita Datar of Takoma Park, Maryland, who worked
for an international development agency. State-owned China Railway
Construction Corp said three senior executives had been killed in the
attack – Zhou Tianxiang, Wang Xuanshang and Chang Xuehui.
Traore had earlier said as many as 10 attackers were involved, he said
yesterday there may have been only two gunmen, both of whom were killed.
A police officer displayed photos of the dead gunmen, their bodies
riddled with bullets.
The siege began when assailants shouting
“God is great!” in Arabic burst into the complex and opened fire, Traore
said. An employee said by phone amid the attack that the militants used
About 170 guests and employees were taken hostage, but some apparently escaped or hid in the hotel.
“The intention was clearly to kill, not to necessarily have people being hostage,” said UN Mission spokesman Olivier Salgado.
Traore said 126 people had been escorted to safety and at least one guest reported the attackers instructed him to recite the Koran as proof of his Muslim faith before he was allowed to leave.
people ran for their lives along a dirt road, troops in full combat
gear pointed the way to safety. Throughout the siege, officials in
various countries from to Asia sought to find out whether their
citizens staying at the hotel were safe.
Chinese state
broadcaster CCTV, citing its diplomats in Mali, reported about 10
Chinese citizens took shelter in their rooms, and all were safe.
Also reported safe were 12 members of an Air France flight crew and five from Turkish Airlines.
All 20 guests from India were evacuated as well, said Vikas Swarup, spokesman for India’s Foreign Ministry.