Öykü Altuntaş / Bamako, Nov 20 () - Malian state TV has reported that 80 people among 170 hostages have now been freed, while Malian special forces have entered the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali's capital Bamako, over siege of gunmen on Nov. 20.
Five Turkish Airlines staff members have been released while two remain hostages at the luxury Radisson Blu hotel following a shooting rampage led by “jihadists,” private broadcaster CNN Türk has reported.
Seven Turkish Airlines personnel were among the 170 taken hostage in Mali. While five were released, two remain in captivity.
The Turkish hostages were identified only by their initials as chief pilot İ.Y., co-pilot S.M.A and cabin crew members M.G., Ş.T.K., L.D.K. and E.S.
Meanwhile, a Turkish government official confirmed that five Turkish Airlines personnel are among hostages.
The official said that two flight attendants are still inside the hotel, adding that the crew members that were released are a station chief, two pilots and two flight attendants
Malian soldiers, police and special forces were on the scene as a security perimeter was set up, along with members of the U.N.’s MINUSMA peacekeeping force in Mali andFrench troops fighting jihadists in west Africa under Operation Barkhane.
The Rezidor Hotel Group, the U.S.-based parent company of Radisson Blu, said two people were holding 170 people hostage.
The company said it was “aware of the hostage-taking that is ongoing at the property today, Nov. 20, 2015. As per our information, two persons have locked in 140 guests and 30 employees.”
It added in a statement: “Our safety and security teams and our corporate team are in constant contact with the local authorities in order to offer any support possible to reinstate safety and security at the hotel.”
The shooting at the Radisson follows a nearly 24-hour siege and hostage-taking at another hotel in August in the central Malian town of Sevare, in which five U.N. workers were killed along with four soldiers and four attackers.
Five people, including a French citizen and a Belgian, were also killed in an attack at a restaurant in Bamako in March in the first such incident in the capital.
Islamist groups have continued to wage attacks in Mali despite a June peace deal between former Tuareg rebels in the north of the country and rival pro-government armed groups.
Northern Mali fell in March-April 2012 to al-Qaeda-linked jihadist groups long concentrated in the area before being ousted by an ongoing French-led military operation launched in January 2013.
Despite the peace deal, large swathes of Mali remain beyond the control of government and foreign forces.
The website of the Radisson Blu in Bamako says it offers “upscale lodging close to many government offices and business sites,” serving as “one of the city’s most popular conference venues” with “a stunning 508-square-metre ballroom and meeting rooms.”
Radisson Blu, an upscale brand of the Radisson hotel chain, has more than 230 luxury hotels and resorts worldwide.