new york. i'm stephanie sy. the news continues next live from london. have a great weekend. ♪ after a seven-hour siege in a mali hotel, all of the hostages have been freed, but there are conflicting reports as to whether gunmen are still inside. ♪ hello there. i'm felicity barr, and this is al jazeera live from london nflt also coming up, the siege has been taking place a week after the attacks in paris where the death toll has now risen to 130. e.u. ministers agree to tighten checks on people entering and leaving the border-free zone. and russia launches cruise
missile strikes against targets in syria from ships in the caspian sea. plus jonathan pallard freed in the u.s. after 30 years in prison. ♪ hello, latest reports say malian special forces remain locked in a standoff with gunmen on the upper floors of the hotel in the capitol bamako. state television says 18 bodies have so far been recovered from the radisson blu hotel in bamako. many of the 170 originally held hostage were able to escape. a group linked to al-qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attack. >> translator: i thought it was firecrackers and didn't realize it was a hostage situation. i left to go to the restaurant, and then i saw there was a lot of smoke, so i returned to my
room. at one stage the malian forces came to get us. they knocked down our doors and evacuated us in small groups. thank god we're safe. >> reporter: we can speak to a journalist outside of the hotel in bamako. bring us up to date on what you are seeing and hearing at the moment. the latest reports we're hearing are some gunmen are still inside the hotel. >> reporter: hello? >> hello -- >> hello? >> can you hear me? >> reporter: yes. >> you can. >> reporter: yes, i can here you. >> can you bring us up to date with what you are hearing within the hotel now. we're hearing reports that there are still gunmen in the hotel. >> reporter: yes, actually -- i mean, the operation seems to be finished, ended. because most of the different forces -- i mean, malian forces,
u.n. forces, and french forces were already at the hotel, and it seems to be finished now, because we have met the one guy from the head -- the head of the hotel who just gave us an interview, and explaining that there would have been about 17 to 18 people who have been killed, you know, and many injured people. so -- >> are you still seeing security forces going in and out of the hotel? >> reporter: what? >> are you still seeing security forces going into and out of the hotel? what appears to be happening right now? >> reporter: yeah, right now, aside from the [ inaudible ] we have got from the head of the hotel saying that two jihadis
have been killed, and people are just moving around in front of the hotel, and it seems to be now not so many worries, not a big problem anymore. we think the operation has ended and no more trouble. >> and what about the hostages who got out of the hotel? were some of them injured? and what happened to them? >> reporter: many of them have been [ inaudible ] since this morning [ inaudible ] the process started. they interviewed a lot of people. about 100 people have been evacuated. and the injured people have been transported to some hospital, but they took those people to the basketball center and most of them were there. at that place there were not so many injured people, only some little-wounded people, so -- and we asked them how it happened,
so -- you know. apart from that -- i mean everything seems to be okay for the moment. >> and what did the hostages say about what had been happening inside? what it was like to be inside the hotel? >> reporter: the hostage -- some of them have met one turkish guy who says he was on the first floor when he heard a bomb -- actually a gunshot, so he realized -- when he heard one, and after he wakes up, and he keeps hearing two, three times, and the shots keep going on, and then he just jumped from his window. he told me he was on the first floor of the hotel, so he jumped out and, you know, just run away. how he has been catched by the mali forces and they came him to a secure place, to the
basketball center place. so you know -- then there was another german guy who explained that once he heard the shot, he thought it was -- something collapsed, fall down from the hotel, but the shooting started, then he just hided in his room until when someone come and knocked his door, and they said they were malian forces and he just came out. those are the people we have met, and gave their story. >> that really helps us get an incite into what life was like inside the hotel during the siege. thank you very much for your time from outside the radisson blu hotel in bamako. yvonne ndege joins us live now. it is still a very confusing picture. conflicting reports of number
the number of victims and if there are gunmen still inside the hotel. >> reporter: that's right, and that tallies with much of what we have been reporting today. at the beginning of the day and up until the last 90 minutes or so. now we're hearing 17 to 18 bodies being cited, and even reports of potentially more than that, some reports suggesting up to 27. but no official confirmation of the death toll from any of the security and emergency services involved in the operation to set these people free from these attackers. also a tack of clarity and confusion about the number of men who may have been involved in this attack. earlier in the day, the parent company of the radisson blu hotel, a u.s.-based company, said there were two gunmen holding more than 170 people
hostage. that moved to about 10 to 15 gunmen. that's what one of the journalists reporting from outside of the hotel said he understood. so still not clear how many may have been involved. and we know speaking to people that there is still an attempt to check, to clear, to scour the hotel to make sure there are no gunmen lurking or hiding anywhere in the hotel. at one point we were told this siege is over. it now sounds like it may be the case that security services are still in an ongoing situation with potentially some gunmen who may still be in the hotel. >> as you talk, ivan about security services, and security forces personnel, it is certainly being lead by the malian forces, but there are
other outside forces involves, the french, the u.s., the u.n., we have been hearing about. >> reporter: that's right. first of all, the united nations does have a peace-keeping presence in mali, because of the political insecurity that we have seen there over the last few years, the coup three years ago, the rebellion in the north, the separatists movement in the north, so there has been a strong presence of peace keepers there. french forces have also been on the ground as part of that stabilizing force. and the malian special security forces themselves. it has been important for the malians to at least on the face of things appear to be front and center of the operation to resolve this situation. the u.s. defense department put out a statement saying that 20 to 25 of their forces were
helping, they just happened to be there at the same time. one would have to imagine that perhaps the united states is involved to some extent in supporting the malian army, helping them train, et cetera, et cetera. and they were called to help during this siege, and apparently were involved in some of the operations to get civilians to safety, civilians living in the area, and perhaps some of those who escaped. so it's been a multinational effort, but very important, as i say that -- malians appear to be front and center, particularly because it is suspected that these individuals may not be foreigners. they could be malians who have pledged an allegiance to an extremist organization like al-qaeda, or part of some of the groups we're seeing operating in the north of the country. but yes, what we understand is that malians have been really at the center and leading the
effort to sort out the situation and bring the whole thing to an end. >> yvonne ndege thank you very much indeed. we can speak now to one of the world's leading authorities on mali. she has been writing and speaking extensively on mali for many years now. thanks for being with us on the program. describe for us at the moment what sort of a country mali is. it's unstable. it's insecure. and the government doesn't have full control, does it? of the entire country. >> no, that's right. f after -- mali was sort of recognized as a model democracy for africa, but then there was a coup in march of 2012, and things got worse very fast. there has been ongoing rebellion in the north with tuareg separatists, and this became
more evident after the coup. so -- and i would put in context this current attack at the radisson, that there have been other attacks since last spring, even before that, major attacks on the ground, a hotel further north, the attack at the restaurant in bamako, and now the radisson. and these are simply the attacks in which expatriots, u.n., french individuals have been involved, and so there's -- there's much more instability and insecurity across the entire country. that's been going on for sometime now. >> given the number of nationalities of people staying in the radisson, an up-market hotel well-known for having foreign visitors, given that, does this feel like an attack that is not just on a domestic
situation, but has a wider international implication. >> well, i think the intention all along with some of these big attacks -- yes, absolutely. they are hoping to gain international attention. they certainly have. the group has claimed the attack, responsibility for the attack. this is a group that has links to al-qaeda, and also links -- ongoing -- he is connected to a terrorist operating in mali for sometime now, and in the region. >> yeah, this al-mrapatune, we have been describing it as an affiliate of al-qaeda. it is a divided group where you have a faction that is loyal to al-qaeda, but also a faction which might now be loyal to isil.
now that would be a new thing, an interesting development, because isil has not really been involved in mali. >> well, exactly. this would be the first time -- well, to my knowledge, that we would start using and speaking of isil in that context. certainly al-qaeda and multiple groups who have on and off allegance with al-qaeda but who have been self proclaimed jihadist seeks attacks against foreigners such as the french, and who have been attacking u.n. forces, part of the peace-keeping mission there. so it's hard to know exactly where the connections lie. they have had ties in the past to al-qaeda, and i guess we'll see as this unfolds. >> just explain to us, just how difficult it has been for the malian government over the past couple of years to try to keep control of the country.
bamako has been in its control, but there are various other areas, particularly in the north, it has lost control of. it is a very, very complex situation in this country right now. >> it's a complex situation, the borders are porous, they have not controlled the territory in the north in fact for sometime, even though technically they do have a presence in the north, there are certain areas that are -- are not really in their control, and so while the french intervention pushed out the actors at the time, out of the most -- the southern-most territory, i would say a lot of the flair ups and conflicts that have been happening have actually been taking place further south since that time, and -- and i think that's quite disheartening, and i think this latest attack just shows how difficult it is to successfully prevent these groups from having such attacks.
>> really great to get your analysis on this complex situation. joining us from philadelphia in the u.s. thanks so much. >> thank you. the french president, has pledged his support for mali. a week of course, after the attacks in paris. and meanwhile french authorities say a body has been recovered from the apartment in saint-denis. jonah hull reports. >> reporter: dreadful moments in bamako, mali, when it appears the focus on targets with a french connection may have gone global. gunmen entered a five-star hotel popular with foreigners and diplomats. they took hostages. there have been a number of deaths. president hollande said french forces on the ground would do what they can to help.
>> translator: once again, terrorists want to mark their bar barous presence on every location. so we need once again to be firm and show our solidarity towards our friend mali. in this hotel there were tourists, people in charge of businesses, people of different nationalities, and that's because mali needs their support to rebuild and develop. >> reporter: at home in france, another police raid, more people taken away under expanded security powers for questioning. this is said to be the mother and brother of the female suicide bomber who blew herself up on wednesday as police raided an apartment in the paris suburb. in a statement the prosecutor has identified the woman, possibly a cousin of abdelhamid abaaoud, also killed in wednesday's raid and identified as the architect of last
friday's attacks. a neighborhood explained that she had been ill treated as a child, then removed from her parents by social services. >> translator: she was treated badly since her childhood. she slept attached to a radiator. she was electrocuted. to avoid going back to her parents jshe said she had nothing to do with islam anymore. >> reporter: in a further twist the prosecutor says a third body was discovered in the rubble, identity as yet unknown. it was good intelligence that lead police to the building in saint-denis, and the death of abdelhamid abaaoud, but an apparent lack of intelligence allowed the attacks to happen in the first place. >> translator: we have learned that he was in the rubble of that apartment in saint-denis. the investigation has to continue to understand exactly why this man that was the
subject of an international warrant issued by belgium could cross so many borders in this way. >> reporter: in brussels european union interior and justice ministers have rallied to france's call for help, after france invoked the e.u. mutual assistan assistan assistan assistance pact for the first time ever. >> europe is standing by france in solidarity and compassion. this meeting is of great importance today. first of all let me remind you that after charlie hebdo, i proposed and finally it was done, the creation of the counter terrorism center at [ inaudible ]. i believe this is a moment to make one more step forward, and put the basis for the creation of a european intelligence agency. >> reporter: paris is back to business as usual in this the
rain, but everyone who passes the various attack sites takes the time to stop and look, perhaps, light a candle or leave a message, in utter silence. life goes on, of course, but the awful events of a week ago, the deaths of so many, have twrigerred consequences in france and abroad that are only beginning to unfold. and also in paris is andrew simmons. andrew france of course still dealing with the fallout from last week's terrible attacks in paris and now also the french involvement in the siege of that hotel in mali. >> reporter: that's right. francois hollande, the french president immediately ordered his special forces into action on hearing of this siege. they were heavily involved. we don't know the numbers, but it's known that there are a large number of french special
forces in mali. since 2013 when there was a major military operation deployed in the country at the request of the malian government after they lost territory -- northern territories, and they had to be reclaimed in a big operation. peace deals came and went after that, and of course, it's a very complex affair. but the situation now as outlined by the president is much that france is supporting the best way it can, and he did say that it was standing resolutely in support of all aspects of life in mali. but there are 6,200 french nationals in bamako alone. and the french president asked that all french citizens, nationals were to be very careful around the world. and of course, france is carrying a heavy burden now with these military conflicts in
africa, iraq, and syria, and there's no one more conscious of that than the french people still in mourning, still in shock after the attacks a week ago. now what we're hearing at the moment in terms of casualties is that we don't have numbers. the french aren't saying how many nationals are involved, but we do have confirmation from the belgium government that a belgium diplomat was killed in that siege. we're not sure how. and we're hearing also confirmation from air france that a crew of 12, that includes two pilots, managed to escape from the hotel, which was no mien feet. because this hotel has very high walls in the rear. air france has canceled its daily flights to bamako, and as
far as the fallout is concerned, well, it's very tense right now, here in paris and it's grim. >> yeah, andrew, given the attacks that we saw on charlie hebdo's office earlier in the year, the attacks in paris last friday, and now, of course, france having influence involvement and interest in what is happening in mali, do you think there is a sense that -- that the french -- certainly the french government feels french interests are actually under attack? >> reporter: most certainly. there's a real feeling of tension in the corridors of power and also on the streets. manuel vales you have heard in jonah's report admitting he didn't know where the main planner of the operation was. they had no idea that abdelhamid abaaoud had even arrived in europe. they had information that he was in syria or iraq. there is a really big question
being put about the efficiency of intelligence, the coordination, because it simply hasn't worked. there are many failures still to be revealed from the american intelligence that abaaoud was the chief instigator of terror in europe, not all of that information was passed on, apparently. and of course, belgium, question there about whether it was cooperating properly with france. but france is really on the warpath there, and it wants to have some solution quickly in the european union. whether that will happen is another matter. but now look behind me, at a time when manuel vales was opening up the debate in the senate which will undoubtedly rubber stamp the extension of the state of emergency. you have a large gathering here of people coming to mourn, to
light candles on this night and in three hour's time it will be exactly one week since paris changed, since we had attacks that really have got to the psyche of people, that are really hurt, that have put this country into emotional tour -- turmoil. >> thank you andrew. the e.u. interior ministers meeting in brussels have agreed to tighten checks at the block's external borders. france demanded those changes after the ringleader last week's attacks was able to slip into paris via greece. >> reporter: there were a raft of measures many of which had been proposed earlier this year. but given the way the e.u. operates, france in the wake of the paris attacked decided that the pace of reform, and the pace
of change was simply too slow, and they convened this emergency meeting of interior and justice ministers here today to demand an accelerated pace. all kinds of things on the agenda, including standardization of the deactivation of weapons, because of the concerns there are about radical groups being able to obtain deactivated weapons and bring them back into usable form. there will be closer controls between the intelligence agencies. a new impetus to try to clamp down on the funding of radical groups. but the headline-grabbing policy that came out of this, was the border controls, and we could hear now from the french interior minister, who said that the increasing -- sorry increased tightening of security was absolutely essential.
>> translator: the strengthening of external border controls, particularly in light of the height enter -- terrorist threat is indispensable. the commission has agreed to table a draft reform of the code by the end of the year to allow for checks to be carried out at all of our external borders and on all people entering the area, including those who benefit from the freedom of movement. the control should be cross-checked with the european sis data system, information system, as well as interpol's database as to flag up the movement of jihadist, and there has to be a better exchange of information between member states, and real time up loading of database so as to allow us to flag up foreign fighters.
>> reporter: let me cut through all of that and put it in to layman's terms. european citizens will be checked in, in any same way as non-e.u. citizens will be. other things include fingerprints will be taken. anybody coming into the area, including refugees will have to be thoroughly checked fingerprinted and data taken. at the moment there are waves of refugees who many people are simply being waved out there from country to country without proper checks. according to the new agreement here, no longer. and there will be europoll officers will be there to beef up security and assist those
countries who perhaps can't cope with the demands. >> reporter: paul brennan thank you. we're going to take a very short break, but still to come, we'll have the latest on how a boat full of asylum seekers were just 200 meters from christmas eye island before they were sited. and police bust the larger underground banking scam.
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