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Half of Mali hotel hostages freed, reports
At least three people have been killed in the hostage-taking at the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali's capital, Bamako, but 80 managed to escape as special forces stormed the building. Heavy gunfire was heard inside the hotel on Friday afternoon.
Mali's security ministry on Friday said that three people had been killed during the hostage-taking, without giving details of their nationality or how they died.
Special forces freed about 30 and about 50 managed to escape, according to Malian state television.
French and US forces were also reported to be involved.
Some of the escaped hostages told reporters they had seen a light-skinned man lying on the ground.
Many residents were able to lock themselves in their rooms, the ministry said.
At least three security guards were wounded, one of them seriously, according to a member of the emergency services.
A police officer is also reported to have been wounded.
The attackers fired on a vehicle with diplomatic plates that arrived at the same time as them, the ministry said, contradicting an earlier report that they had arrived in it.
Air France announced that 12 of its employees were in the hotel but were now safe and that seven Turkish Airlines employees were also there, five of them managing to escape.
French President François Hollande said that there were "tourists and businesspeople of various nationalities" were staying at the hotel but did not say whether any French
nationals were among them.
He appealed to French citizens in "sensitive countries" to take the necessary precautions.
A crisis unit was established at France's foreign affairs ministry on Friday and about 40 gendarmes specialising in hostage situations were sent to Bamako on Friday morning.
The French institute and school in Bamako were closed.
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Kaita returned to Bamako early from a summit of Sahel countries in Chad because of the hostage-taking.