This is a big one. An unknown number of terrorists shouting Allahu Akbar have taken control of the Radisson Blu hotel in the capital of Mali. Three people have been reported dead in the attack and a huge number of hostages have been taken, estimated at 150 guests and thirty employees. According to NBC News, the hostages include “U.S. Government employees,” but there are no specifics as to who they might be or which department they work for. (Reuters)

Islamist gunmen stormed a luxury hotel packed with foreigners in Mali’s capital Bamako on Friday, taking 170 hostages in a former French colony that has been battling rebels allied with al Qaeda for several years.

A senior security source said some of the hostages had been freed after being made to recite verses from the Koran. The French newspaper Le Monde quoted the Malian security ministry as saying at least three hostages had been killed.

The raid on the Radisson Blu hotel, which lies just west of the city center near government ministries and diplomatic offices in the former French colony, comes a week after Islamic State militants killed 129 people in Paris.

The identity of the Bamako gunmen, or the group to which they belong, is not known.

I suppose Reuters feels obligated to say that the identify of the group is not known at this point but it probably wouldn’t take much guesswork to narrow it down. (And which branch of Global Muslim Terror Incorporated is responsible probably doesn’t matter all that much anymore.) CNN has witnesses on the scene who report that hostages were not just made to recite passages from the Koran, but those who were able to do so from memory were released. This could turn into a standoff which stretches into the weekend.

This is hardly the first time Mali has had trouble with the local flavor of Al-Qaida. Just a few months ago there were nearly a dozen Mali soldiers killed when AQ terrorists attacked a military post in the norther portion of the country. (The Guardian)

Mali’s government has said eleven soldiers were killed on Monday in a terrorist attack on a camp in the northern Timbuktu region, reportedly claimed by Al-Qaida’s front group in the region.

Jihadist attacks have long been concentrated in Mali’s north, but began spreading at the beginning of the year to the centre of the country, and in June to the south near the borders with Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.

“Unidentified gunmen attacked a security post of the Mali National Guard” early Monday morning in Gourma-Rharous, an area around 140 kilometres (90 miles) east of Timbuktu, a government statement said.

In May, five more people were killed during an attack on a popular restaurant in the same city. The French still maintain a large military presence in the western African nation, but they’ve clearly got their hands full.

The target selection, being a symbol of “western decadence” and all, along with the prioritization of taking non-Muslims as hostages make this a fairly textbook operation these days. As of 7:30 this morning NBC News is reporting that 80 hostages had been released, presumably those who passed muster as Muslims. The White House can keep claiming that we’re not fighting a holy war, but somebody needs to tell these guys. They’re clearly fighting an (un)holy war against us. I’m sure there will be more updates throughout the day because Mali security forces are moving in already to attempt to effect a rescue.

UPDATE: Special forces have moved in to rescue the hostages.

Malian special forces have entered the Radisson Blu Hotel in the capital, Bamako, to try to free hostages taken after it was stormed by gunmen.

The hotel says 138 people remain inside. The gunmen stormed it shooting and shouting “God is great!” in Arabic, eyewitnesses say…

The US Department of Defense told the BBC that US special forces were “currently assisting hostage recovery efforts”.

A US official said around 25 military personnel were in Bamako at the time of the attack and that some of them are helping “with moving civilians to secured locations, while Malian forces clear the hotel of hostile gunmen”.

Six Americans are reported to have been rescued.

France’s defence ministry says its special forces are also on site at the hotel.