At least 80 of 170 hostages at Bamako hotel have been freed

In this image made available by Malikahere.com security personnel, right, attend close to the scene of an attack on a hotel in Bamako, Mali Friday Nov. 20, 2015. Men shouting "God is great" and armed with guns and throwing grenades stormed into the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali's capital Friday morning. (Malikahere.com via AP)

CNN – Here is the latest news from Mali:

• [7:20 a.m. ET] Security forces have begun a counter-assault on the hotel in Mali’s capital, said French President Francois Hollande, who said he’d been in touch with Malian authorities dealing with the hostage situation, including Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. Hollande, speaking to reporters in Paris, pledged to provide “necessary support” to help Mali resolve the situation.

• [7:18 a.m. ET] Twelve Air France crew members who were staying in the hotel are in a “safe place,” the airline tweeted Friday. Air France has canceled all its flights Friday to and from Bamako as a precaution, the airline said.

• [7:14 a.m. ET] Vikas Swarup, a spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said 20 Indian nationals were staying in the hotel.

• [7 a.m. ET] At least 80 of roughly 170 hostages have been freed from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, the country’s state broadcaster, ORTM, said Friday.

FULL STORY:

Security forces have begun a counter-assault on a Malian hotel where gunmen took more than 100 hostages Friday morning, French President Francois Hollande told reporters in Paris on Friday afternoon.

The situation began around 7 a.m. at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, when two or three attackers stormed the hotel, firing guns and initially taking about 170 people hostage, officials said. At least three deaths were reported.

Two armed men initially locked in about 140 guests and 30 employees at the Radisson Blu, hotel officials said. By noon, the country’s state broadcaster, ORTM, reported that at least 80 of the hostages had been freed.

The attackers, carrying AK-47s, arrived around 7 a.m. in a vehicle or vehicles with diplomatic plates, said Olivier Saldago, a spokesman for the United Nations mission in Mali.

The gunmen fired as they entered the hotel, and the gunshots went on for several minutes, said witness Amadou Keita, who works at a cultural center close by.

Two Malian nationals and a French national have died, a U.N. official said without elaborating.

Malian soldiers, with help from U.N. troops, had the hotel surrounded. They were able to free a few hostages, a journalist for ORTM, the state television, told CNN from the scene.

Among them were three U.N. staff members, a source told CNN. It’s unknown how many other staffers remain inside.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the incident.

Hollande said he’d been in touch with Malian authorities dealing with the hostage situation, including Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. Hollande pledged to provide “necessary support” to help Mali resolve the situation.

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