BAMAKO, Mali, Nov. 20 (UPI) ─ At least one American was killed Friday during an apparent terror attack on a five-star hotel in West Africa, U.S. officials said, and several others remain unaccounted for.
Heavily armed gunmen stormed the Radisson Blu in Bamako, Mali, early Friday and immediately began firing inside the lobby, authorities said. As people scattered for cover, the attackers kept firing and at one point seized about 100 hostages, according to a Malian Army commander.
“I saw four of them, armed to the teeth,” he added.
The day-long siege was ultimately ended by Malian, U.S. and French security forces. A United Nations official reportedly said a preliminary assessment found more than two dozen dead.
Two senior U.S. intelligence officials said at least one American citizen was killed in the sustained armed assault. Another specified that between 12 and 15 Americans were in the hotel during the attack ─ and only about half of them have been accounted for so far.
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s terrorist attack on the many Malian and international guests and employees of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement Friday. “We are prepared to assist the Malian government in the coming days as it investigates this tragic terrorist attack.”
Also among the dead is Geoffrey Dieudonne, a member of parliament in Belgium’s Wallonia region, BBC News reported Friday.
Mali’s president tweeted thanks to security forces and allies for support in responding to the attack. It is unknown if there is a link between the hostage situation and the attack on Paris a week ago that killed 129.
Xinhua reported that several of the hostages were Chinese, while Indian officials said there were 20 Indian nationals in the hotel. One of the people staying at the hotel was reportedly Aliko Dangote, Africa’s wealthiest person.
“This week there was a big delegation for the peace process at the Radisson hotel in Bamako,” Olivier Saldago, a spokesman for the United Nation’s branch in the nation, said.
French President Francois Hollande said he has been in contact with Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and pledged to provide “necessary support” to the former French colony.
The U.S. embassy in Bamako, the capital of the West African nation, instructed all U.S. residents and embassy staff to shelter in place.
The UN sent peacekeepers to Mali in 2013 to guard against extremists who threatened Bamako, a city with a population approaching two million. In August, a dozen hostages and Malian soldiers were killed in a gun battle with the Macina Liberation Movement, an extremist group formed earlier this year, at a hotel in central Mali.
No terror group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.