BAMAKO -- Armed Islamic extremists today stormed a deluxe hotel here locking in 170 people, killing at least 18 of them, while 20 captured Indians were evacuated without any harm.
Nine hours after the siege of the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali's capital town by extremists in a hail of fire from automatic guns, security minister Salif Traore announced the end of the hostage crisis after two gunmen were killed by security forces.
"They currently have no more hostages in their hands and forces are in the process of tracking them down," security minister Salif Traore told a news conference following the stand-off.
"Eighteen bodies were found," a foreign security source told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that French special forces from neighbouring Burkina Faso were in the hotel and "participating in operations alongside Malians".
The incident came a week after the deadly terror attack in Paris. Though there was no direct link between the two incidents, Mali has been at the centre of French military operations against Islamists in north Africa.
"Good news! All 20 Indians in the hotel in Bamako have been safely evacuated. Our Ambassador in Mali has confirmed," the External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson tweeted.
Employees of a Dubai-based company, these Indians were staying in the hotel permanently, the Spokesperson said in New Delhi.
Mali's north fell under the control of Tuareg rebels and jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda in mid-2012 before they were beaten back by a French-led operation in early 2013.
As the drama in Bamako was unfolding, EU ministers agreed at an emergency meeting in Brussels to tighten border controls after the Paris massacre which was orchestrated by a jihadist who had travelled between Syria and France.
Prosecutors in Paris also confirmed that three people had died at a house in a north Paris suburb used as a hideout by suspected attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, including him and his female cousin.
Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin, and cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen were killed in an assault by anti-terror police on Wednesday. The identity of the third body has not been disclosed.
Gunmen entered the 190-room hotel compound at around 0700 GMT (1230 IST) in a car with diplomatic plates and automatic gunfire was heard from outside, security sources said.
Earlier, the hotel's owner, the Rezidor Hotel Group, said 138 people were still inside, with employees of the French and Turkish national airlines as well as Chinese among known to be those staying there.
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