Eighty hostages including 20 Indians held by Islamist gunmen have been freed from a luxury hotel in Mali's capital as government special forces moved floor by floor to clear the building, Mali's state broadcaster and a security source."The attackers are still inside. We're hearing gunfire from time to time," said a witness outside the Radisson Blu hotel.

Earlier, Ministry of External Affairs had informed that 20 Indian nationals were staying in the hotel stormed by gunmen. Official Spokesperson of MEA, Vikas Swarup, said the Indian ambassador to Mali is continuously in touch with them and monitoring the situation,

Six Turkish Airlines staff members are also among those trapped in the luxury hotel, a Turkish government official said. However, it is unknown whether they're among those freed.

A senior security source said some of the hostages had been freed after being made to recite verses from the Koran. The French newspaper Le Monde quoted the Malian security ministry as saying at least three hostages had been killed.

Image source: Wikipedia

The raid on the Radisson Blu hotel, which lies just west of the city centre near government ministries and diplomatic offices in the former French colony, comes a week after Islamic State militants killed 129 people in Paris.

The identity of the Bamako gunmen, or the group to which they belong, is not known.

Northern Mali was occupied by Islamist fighters, some with links to al Qaeda, for most of 2012. They were driven out by a French-led military operation, but sporadic violence has continued in Mali's central belt on the southern reaches of the Sahara, and in Bamako.

Security MessageThe Embassy is aware of an ongoing active shooter operation at the Radisson Hotel. The U.S. Embassy...

Posted by Ambassade des Etats-Unis au Mali on Friday, 20 November 2015

The security source said as many as 10 gunmen had stormed the building, firing shots and shouting "Allahu Akbar", or "God is great" in Arabic. The hotel's head of security said two private security guards had been injured in the early stages of the attack, which began at 7 a.m. (0700 GMT).

A French presidential source said French citizens were in the hotel. The Chinese state news agency Xinhua said several Chinese tourists were among those trapped inside the building.

Feature image source: Wikipedia