The Latest On The Hostage Crisis In Mali
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We cannot be sure this morning if a hostage situation is over in Mali. We do know, though, that Malian forces, with Western assistance, assaulted a hotel where gunmen had taken many hostages today. Let's talk through what's known starting with NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. And Ofeibea, what's the latest you have?
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: The latest is still three hostages apparently killed - that comes from a Malian official. But we're hearing much higher numbers now, Steve, of people killed because earlier, Malian commanders, as you've said, assisted by French special forces and we're told some American troops in the mix, went after those who had taken the hostages - about 170 of them, 30 Radisson hotel staff and then the rest are guests. It seems that dozens have been able to escape or were freed - many, many questions still to be asked.
INSKEEP: And one question that we are asking is whether this is over. Some reports suggest that - Agence France-Presse, among others, saying that. We have not confirmed that here, let's be frank about that. You said something about Americans in the mix, and I want to turn to NPR's Phil Ewing, our national security editor. What's the latest you know about how Americans were in the mix?
PHIL EWING, BYLINE: Well...
INSKEEP: Let me just stop you for a second, Phil. We'll turn on your microphone - all right, go right ahead. There we go.
EWING: The United States has deployed about 25 troops to Bamako as part of an ongoing operation to support the French campaign against extremists in the north of Mali. We understand from U.S. Africa Command that they were taking part in a support role. And specifically, two American troops were outside this hotel. And the American forces have also been helping with relocating the rescued Americans from the hotel. So they were taken out safely, we understand. And the American troops who are there are helping the Americans who were involved in this hostage situation.
INSKEEP: Rescued Americans - and it's seven rescued Americans that we know of at this point?
EWING: That's our latest information.
INSKEEP: And Ofeibea, will you just remind us of the scene here? This is a hotel that was frequented by foreigners in a district frequented by foreigners?
QUIST-ARCTON: A very plush hotel, the Radisson Blu, in a very posh part of Bamako. Now, apparently the gunmen, in a vehicle that it appears may have had diplomatic number plates armed with guns and grenades, forced their way inside the hotel, shouting Islamist slogans. And very quickly let me just tell you, Steve, that Mali has a history. Three years ago, the North was occupied by Islamist groups who wanted stricter Islamic law in the country. They were eventually pushed out by a French offensive along with the Malians. But there has been instability and insecurity since then with continuing hit-and-run raids, and we have had an attack here in the capital, Bamako, where people were killed at a restaurant, including foreigners. And also in Sevare, five U.N. workers killed amongst...
INSKEEP: And now we have today's attack. That's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton and NPR's Phil Ewing. Thanks to both of you.
EWING: Thank you.
QUIST-ARCTON: Pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.