Recite the Koran or Die: At Least 27 Dead After Terror Siege at Mali Hotel
UPDATE [2:01 p.m. ET]: Twelve hours in, a standoff is still ongoing between special forces troops and gunmen in the hotel.
Two jihadist attackers have been killed and all hostages have been freed.
But a number of the attackers are still entrenched in a longstanding, “bloody” battle with soldiers on the same seventh floor, Paul Tilsley reports from Johannesburg.
Mali officials say that 27 people have now been confirmed dead.
The number is expected to keep climbing as we learn that only about a third of the hotel has been searched.
Twelve U.S. Special Forces based in Mali provided assistance to local troops in rescuing the hostages, but they have not been directly on the front lines.
Another key point now is the fact that two organizations working together are now claiming responsibility.
One is a local Al Qaeda faction and the other is Al-Mourabitoun, led by the notorious Algerian terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
"The U.S. claimed that they killed him in an airstrike back in June, but he's been denying that, saying he's alive," said Tilsley.
Although the Islamic State is not known to be directly related to any of these West African terrorist groups, almost all have been said to claim allegiance to the caliphate.
UPDATE [12:46 p.m. ET]: UN peacekeepers say they saw at least 27 bodies inside the hotel, according to Sky News.
Some gunmen also remain at the hotel, although all hostages are believed to have been set free.
UPDATE [11:45 a.m. ET]: Government troops in Mali appear to have cleared the hotel.
Soldiers have been helping people to safety, and some injured survivors have also been seen leaving the building.
Several Americans are among those who have gotten out, though there is still no final count, nor confirmation that the terror attack is over, said Jenna Lee.
UPDATE [11:17 a.m. ET]: Mali officials are clearing the hotel "floor by floor" and there are no more hostages at this time, Jenna Lee reports on "Happening Now."
However, the number of casualties is still unknown, as is the location of the attackers.
[11:03 a.m. ET]: A group said to be affiliated with Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attack that continues to hold around 124 guests and 13 staff, the hotel says.
Malian special forces have entered the building to try to help free hostages, who are apparently being held in a standoff on the seventh floor.
U.S. and French special operations troops are also assisting.
Two soldiers have been wounded, according to BBC.
One Belgian national and one French national have been confirmed among the three dead, Fox News' foreign correspondent Paul Tilsley reports from Johannesburg.
80 hostages in all have been freed, with six of those being Americans, U.S. military officials say. The State Department, however, has said others may still be inside.
Twenty hostages were released by the gunmen personally once the hostages were able to recite the Koran.
Because Al Qaeda has been pushed out of northern Mali by the French, the group is now reportedly targeting the French.
Disturbingly, the new claim of responsibility suggests "there's somewhat of a jihadist Olympics that appears to be developing this week between ISIS and Al Qaeda," reports Martha MacCallum, "each trying to prove that they are relevant."
FULL STORY: About 170 people are reportedly being held hostage at a luxury hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako.
The attackers, shouting "Allahu Akbar," are said to have let some hostages go, but only if they recited verses of the Koran, AP reported.
At least three people have died in the assault on the Radisson Blu hotel, after the terrorists threw grenades and fired down hotel corridors.
Americans are staying at the hotel, but it's unclear if any were killed or are among the hostages.
Paul Tilsley reported the latest this morning on "America's Newsroom," saying that witnesses report some of the gunmen speaking English.
Malian troops stormed the hotel earlier, freeing hostages floor-by-floor, but the gunmen are believed to be holed up with hostages on one floor.
A handful of jihadi groups, some linked to Al Qaeda, are known to be active in Mali. French forces went into Mali in 2012 after terrorists seized control of the country's north.
Tilsley said the possibility of ISIS involvement is "very real," noting some of the gunmen speaking in English.
The hotel is located just blocks from the U.S. Embassy in Mali. State Department staff has been ordered to shelter in place.
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