American among those killed at hotel in Mali
Gunmen stormed a Radisson Blu hotel in Mali's capital Bamako Friday morning, taking more than 100 hostages. At least 20 people were reported dead by the end of the day-long siege, including one American.
On the morning of the siege, Malian troops responded by going floor to floor freeing the hostages, Malian army commander Modibo Nama Traore told the Associated Press. U.S. and French special forces assisted with the response.
By 5 p.m. local time, all hostages had been freed, according to Malian state television.
The Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel group said that about 170 guests and employees were in the hotel at the time, reported the AP.
A U.S. military official said at least six Americans were among those freed from the luxury hotel.
Anita Ashok Datar of Takoma Park, Md., was the only American killed. The 41-year-old former Peace Corps volunteer was working for Palladium Group, an international development organization with offices in Washington, D.C. She specialized in family planning and HIV issues.
"Everything she did in her life she did to help others — as a mother (of a young son), public health expert, daughter, sister and friend," her family said in a statement. "And while we are angry and saddened that she has been killed, we know that she would want to promote education and healthcare to prevent violence and poverty at home and abroad, not intolerance."
A jihadist group, known as the Mourabitounes, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it wanted its fighters freed from Malian prisons and for attacks in the North to stop. One guest said the attackers told him to recite verses from the Quran before he was released.
In 2013, several jihadi groups had taken over the northern part of Mali, a former French colony, before French forces helped the Malian army extricate them.
Friday's attack came a week after Islamic State followers exploded devices and fired into cafes and a concert venue in Paris, killing 130 people.
"We should yet again stand firm and show our solidarity with a friendly country, Mali," said French President Francois Hollande.
The U.S. Embassy in Mali told citizens to shelter in place and contact their families.
This story was updated with the latest death toll in Bamako and in Paris, and with the identity of the American killed.