Nineteen civilians and two militants are dead after Islamist extremists with guns and grenades stormed a luxury hotel in Mali, according to a Sky news report.
The country’s president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita confirmed the deaths, which include an American health worker, a Malian soldier, a Belgian local government officer and three Chinese railway executives.
Seven people were injured, including at least two Malian police officers. 126 people were successfully helped to safety.
Mali’s President cut short a visit to Chad and declared a 10-day state of emergency while French President Francois Hollande said France would “yet again stand firm and show our solidarity” with its former colony, promising to send extra troops to boost the 1,000 currently there.
US President Barack Obama says the “barbarity” shown by Islamic extremists at the hotel was yet another reminder that the “scourge of terrorism” threatens many nations and that the attack “only stiffens our resolve to meet this challenge”.
Around 10 men armed with guns and grenades entered the Radisson Blu in the country’s capital of Bamako at around 7am local time on Friday, shouting and screaming “Allahu Akbar”, which means “God Is great” in Arabic.
Witnesses reported seeing some of the men approach the hotel in a car, wearing dark suits and sunglasses.
One of the freed hostages, a singer from Guinea, said he heard attackers in the next room speaking English.
“I heard them say in English ‘Did you load it?’, ‘Let’s go’,” Sékouba ‘Bambino’ Diabate told Reuters.
Al Mourabitoun, an African Jihadist group affiliated with al Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the attack.