Update: The BBC is reporting that U.S. special forces are “currently assisting hostage recovery efforts.”
The Associated Press is reporting that at least three people were killed and 170 were taken hostage in a raid carried out by armed Islamic extremists on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali. Malian troops have surrounded the building, and claim to have freed 80 guests from the complex (Update: The BBC claims that number has been lowered to 30), according to Malian state TV. However, the Rezidor Hotel group has put out an updated statement saying 137 hostages are still in the building.
Malian army commander Modibo Nama Traore told the AP that his troops were rescuing the hostages “floor by floor.” The commander also said that at least one guest claims he was allowed to leave the complex after being asked to recite verses from the Quran.
The U.S. Embassy in Mali says it is aware of the situation, and is urging U.S. citizens to seek immediate shelter and contact their families.
SECURITY MESSAGE (2/4) The U.S. Embassy staff has been asked to shelter in place. All U.S. citizens should shelter in place.— U.S. Embassy Bamako (@USEmbassyMali) November 20, 2015
SECURITY MESSAGE (¾) Private U.S. citizens are encouraged to contact their families.— U.S. Embassy Bamako (@USEmbassyMali) November 20, 2015
SECURITY MSG 4/4 Monitor local media for updates. US citizens should adhere to the instructions of local authorities and monitor local media— U.S. Embassy Bamako (@USEmbassyMali) November 20, 2015
While it is not yet clear what group is behind the raid, ISIS is a natural suspect given the recent attacks in Paris, and given the fact that French troops have been helping the Malian government fight an Islamic insurgency since 2012. However, it is possible that the attack was simply inspired by by the events in France and is being carried out by local militants with no direct support from ISIS.