Mali hotel siege: Death toll on the rise

  • 21/11/2015
The Radisson Blu (AAP)
The Radisson Blu (AAP)

Gun-toting jihadists took more than 100 people hostage for around nine hours at a top hotel in Mali's capital Bamako in an attack that's left at least 21 people dead.

The assault, which was claimed by the Al-Murabitoun group of notorious one-eyed Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, added to fears over the global jihadist threat, a week after the devastating Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

Those attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group.

The Malian government declared a 10-day nationwide state of emergency on Friday evening over the assault and called three days of mourning for the victims, who included three Chinese, an American and a Belgian.

The gunmen shot their way inside the hotel and taking guests and staff hostage.

Malian television broadcast chaotic scenes from inside the building as police and other security personnel ushered bewildered guests along corridors to safety.

Special forces staged a dramatic floor-by-floor rescue, ending the siege after about nine hours.

"The hostage-taking is over. We are in the process of securing the hotel," a Malian military source said as civil protection officers removed the victims in orange body bags.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said on state television that 21 people, including the two militants, had been killed, with seven people wounded.

Two US special forces members who happened to be in the area also helped in the operation.

Beijing's state media said that three Chinese citizens had been killed while a further four managed to escape.

A senior US State Department official confirmed a US citizen was among the victims with another dozen Americans surviving the attack.

And a Belgian regional assembly official, in Mali for a convention, was also among those killed, his parliament said.

In an audio recording broadcast by Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television, Belmokhtar's group said it was responsible.

France's defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Belmokhtar, one of the world's most-wanted men, was indeed "likely" the brains behind the assault.

The jihadist is also accused of masterminding a hostage-taking at a gas plant in Algeria in 2013, in which around 40 mostly Western hostages were killed.

The palatial 190-room Radisson, regarded as one of west Africa's best hotels, is a favourite with entrepreneurs, tourists and government officials from across the world.

Guinean singer Sekouba Bambino Diabate, who was among the survivors, told AFP the gunmen spoke English among themselves.

Many of the guests were still in their rooms when the hostage crisis started.

France has more than 1000 troops in its former colony, a key battleground of the Barkhane counter-terror mission spanning five countries in Africa's restive Sahel region.