PARIS (Sputnik) – Earlier in the day, Institut Francais du Mali said in a statement it was closed to the public until further notice. A similar statement was issued by the Etablissement Liberte Bamako school.
“Our embassy is in constant contact with the Malian authorities to ensure the safety of our citizens. The French institute and school are closed down,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said.
Nadal urged French citizens in the western African republic to remain home, and announced that a special hotline and crisis center had been opened in the French Foreign Ministry in Paris.
Up to 80 people were reported to have been released, including hostages able to recite verses from the Quran.
Turkish, Chinese, Belgian and French nationals, including French soldiers, were said to be held in the hotel by 10 gunmen. Witnesses overheard the assailants shouting the Arabic phrase “Allahu Akbar,” which translates to: “God is Great.”
Two witnesses later told media outlets they had heard the suspected gunmen addressing each other in English.