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Malian special forces stormed the Radisson Blu in Bamako after gunmen reportedly aligned with al Qaeda took hundreds of guests and staff hostage.

According to the AFP, at least 27 people are dead and about 170 were being held in the hotel as security forces went floor to floor searching for the attackers.

One of the rescued, Guinean singer Sékouba ‘Bambino’ Diabate, told Reuters he heard some of the gunmen speaking in English.

“We heard shots coming from the reception area. I didn’t dare go out of my room because it felt like this wasn’t just simple pistols – these were shots from military weapons,” Diabate said.

“The attackers went into the room next to mine. I stayed still, hidden under the bed, not making a noise,” he said. “I heard them say in English ‘Did you load it?’, ‘Let’s go’.”

Located in Mali’s capital, the Radisson Blu is popular with Westerners and tourists, and a Belgian government worker has been confirmed among the dead.

At least six Americans were rescued from the hotel, but there is no word on whether any U.S. citizens are among the dead.

President Obama has been briefed on the situation.

Mali is a former French colony and has been battling Islamic extremists and other anti-governmental groups for years. In 2013, France launched “Operation Serval,” a military intervention in the country after the interim Malian government requested its help to oust extremists.

After the events in Paris, a radical jihadist told Reuters to expect more attacks against France, partly due to its actions in Mali.

“This is just the beginning. We also haven’t forgotten what happened in Mali,” the man said. “The bitterness from Mali, the arrogance of the French, will not be forgotten at all.”

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