By Warren Strobel and Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON – Six Americans have been recovered from the luxury hotel in Bamako, Mali, where armed Islamist militants took hostages on Friday, U.S. officials said, adding that U.S. special forces assisted in the rescue efforts.
Representatives for U.S. Africa Command said American military personnel were helping move civilians to safety as Malian forces cleared the hotel in the country’s capital, Bamako.
“Mali forces have the lead in Bamako,” Africa Command said in a tweet. “Small team of U.S. troops assisting with relocating rescued hostages.”
Army Colonel Mark Cheadle, a spokesman for Africa Command, said six Americans were recovered from the hotel and he believed all were alive. It was not immediately clear whether other Americans also had been trapped in the siege.
Cheadle said 26 U.S. military personnel were in Bamako when Islamist gunmen stormed the building. There was not a formal request for U.S. military assistance, defense officials said.
About 1,000 U.S. special forces are deployed across Africa at any given time but there was no indication that U.S. military personnel were in combat with the hostage-takers.
Gunmen shouting Islamic slogans attacked the Raddison Blu hotel, which is frequented by foreigners, early on Friday morning, taking 170 people hostage. At least 27 people were reported dead after Malian commandos stormed the hotel and dozens of people were reported to have escaped or been freed.
A Malian official later told French television station BFMTV that all remaining hostages were safe and out of the hotel.
The U.S. military was providing airlift support and aerial reconnaissance support to French forces in Mali under a 2013 agreement, the command said.
President Barack Obama, who is attending a regional summit in Malaysia, was briefed by his national security adviser on the Bamako situation, a White House official said on Friday.