A Mali trooper leads a hostage to safety after gunmen attacked the Radisson Blu hotel in the Mali capital of Bamako. AP Photo/Harouna Traore

Gunmen have killed at least three people and taken 170 guests and staff members hostage at a luxury hotel in the capital city of Bamako.

Gunmen in Mali have killed at least three people and taken 170 guests and staff members hostage at a luxury hotel in the capital city of Bamako, according to multiple reports.

“The attackers, carrying AK-47s, arrived around 7 a.m. in a vehicle or vehicles with diplomatic plates,” one United Nations spokesman told CNN.

Details remain sketchy so far. Estimates of the number of attackers involved have ranged from a few as two to as many as 13. There have also been no claims of responsibility yet, however, some guests who were able to prove their Muslim faith were reportedly released. Of the three people killed, two were said to be Malian nationals while the other was French.

A rescue operation involving special security forces is currently underway and, according to state radio, 80 of the hostages have been freed. Another report suggests that 136 people—124 guests and 12 employees—still remain captiveincluding a number of foreign tourists.

“Two members of the Malian security forces were wounded by shots fired from the seventh floor of the hotel and were taken away by ambulance,” one local reporter on the scene told The New York Times. Malian army commander Modibo Nama Traore told the AP that hostages were being freed “floor by floor.”

Twelve members of an AirFrance crew that were staying at the hotel are among those reported safe. As a precaution, the airline has canceled all flights to the former French colony. According to Reuters, several Chinese tourists and a few members of a Turkish Airlines crew remain trapped inside the hotel. American special operations forces are also said to be assisting at the scene.

Mali has been in a protracted battle against terrorism since 2012 when the northern part of the country was taken over by Islamist insurgents aligned with al Qaeda. French troops intervened and eventually won back the territory.

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was attending a regional summit in Chad, is on his way back to Bamako. French President Francois Hollande has pledged France’s support, saying “we will use all the means available to us on the ground to free the hostages.”

We will be updating this story as we learn more.

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A young girl winces from the sting as she receives the polio vaccine in 1954.
    Life

    How Mandatory Vaccination Fueled the Anti-Vaxxer Movement

    To better understand the controversy over New York’s measles outbreak, you have to go back to the late 19th century.

  2. A photo of a closed street in St. Louis
    Equity

    The Curious Tale of the St. Louis Street Barriers

    Thanks to an '80s mania for traffic calming, the St. Louis grid is broken by hundreds of bollards and cul-de-sacs. Critics say it’s time to get rid of them.

  3. Design

    A New Plan to Correct a Historic Mistake in Pittsburgh

    A Bjarke Ingels Group-led plan from 2015 has given way to a more “practical” design for the Lower Hill District. Concerns over true affordable housing remain.

  4. Life

    How to Inspire Girls to Become Carpenters and Electricians

    Male-dominated trades like construction, plumbing, and welding can offer job security and decent pay. A camp aims to show girls these careers are for them, too.

  5. People eat and drink coffee inside a small coffeehouse.
    Life

    Gentrification Is Hurting Kuala Lumpur's Iconic Coffee Shops

    Traditional kopitiams, which serve sweetened coffee in no-frills surroundings, are a part of Malaysian national identity, but their survival is precarious.