Contrary to earlier reports by some online news media that Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man was in a five-star hotel in Mali, where 170 people are being held hostage, the rich business mogul is reported to be in Lagos, Nigeria.
According to a report by Al Jazeera, the gunmen attacked Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, today, Friday, November 20 and about 170 are being held hostage. The gunmen who shouted “Allahu Akbar” opened fire outside the hotel before storming it.
A business owner, Garba Konate, who spoke to Al Jazeera, said the group of attackers showed up about three hours earlier.
“About 10 gunmen arrived early in the morning and shot all the guards in front of the Radisson. I started hearing gunshots coming from the hotel,” said Ibrahim, 28, who works at a cultural centre 40 metres away. Soon after I saw one of the guards running out, injured… The security guard told me the shooters were so quick that he doesn’t even know how many came in,” he told Al Jazeera.
According to CNN, about three people, two Malian and one French, have been reported dead. Chinese, US and French citizens including military and aviation employees are among the hostages. The assailants may have spent the night at the hotel.
According to reports, some hostages, including those able to recite verses of the Qur’an, were later released, security sources told Reuters. A security source told AFP that the gunmen were “jihadis” and entered the hotel compound in a car that had diplomatic plates.
Idrissa Sangare, a local journalist at the scene, told Al Jazeera UN forces and Malian troops were working together in front of the hotel.
“We don’t know who carried out the attack because the operation is still going on,”Sangare said.
Sangare said UN officials were having a function at the hotel. The hotel’s owner said it was “aware of the hostage-taking that is ongoing at the property today … As per our information, two persons have locked in 140 guests and 30 employees,” the company said in a statement.
To debunk the news of him being among the people held hostage, a spokesperson for Dangote told The Herald that Aliko was safely in his office at the Union Marble house in Lagos and that Dangote had just tweeted to debunk the false report. Aliko said via Twitter “Rumour about me being held hostage is false. I was in Mali yesterday.Thank you for your concern. My prayers with those involved.”
Mali’s president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, has cut his trip to chad short because of the happening. He has returned to Bamako.
Meanwhile, Reuters citing a state broadcaster in Mali reports that eight hostages have been freed from the Radisson Blu Hotel, but it did not elaborate on the condition surrounding their release.