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Famed Guinean Singer Embroiled In Malian Hotel Siege

21 November 2015 | 1:23 pm | Staff Writer

Sekouba 'Bambino' Diabate was among the hostages rescued by authorities after attackers took control of Bamako's Radisson Blu hotel

Veteran West African performer Sekouba 'Bambino' Diabate has been rescued from a siege of the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali, after a group of attackers — reportedly members of a West African jihadist group with ties to Al-Qaeda — stormed the premises, taking more than 150 people hostage and leaving more than 20 people dead.

According to the BBC, Diabate was asleep when the attack began, initially believing the intruders to be bandits.

"I woke up with the sounds of gunshots and for me, it was just small bandits who came in the hotel to claim something," Diabate said. "After 20 or 30 minutes, I realised these are not just petty criminals."

The ABC further quotes Diabate as saying: "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.

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

As the ABC reports, a group of as many as 10 attackers broke through the hotel's security, holding 170 people (140 guests and 30 staff) against their will for several hours until Malian commandos moved to free the hostages. Initial reports suggested 27 people had died in the attack, though this was later revised down to 21. According to security minister Salif Traore, the attackers "currently have no more hostages in their hands and forces are in the process of tracking them down".

Although Diabate and several others were rescued from the siege by security forces, it has been reported that some were freed by attackers after demonstrating they were able to recite from the Koran, while others were able to escape.

Mali-based jihadist group Al-Murabitoun claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter and via video broadcast on Al-Jazeera, though the BBC asserts there is no established link between this incident and last week's fatal attacks in Paris.

The Malian government has declared a 10-day state of emergency for the country, as well as an official three-day mourning period for the victims.