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Malian special forces enter hotel attacked by Islamist gunmen

Malian special forces have stormed a luxury hotel captured by gunmen in Mali's capital Bamako Friday in a bid to release up to 170 hostages, some of them believed to be American, a senior police source and witnesses told Reuters.

Both AP and Reuters have reported that there are currently no more hostages in the hotel siege.

The Pentagon said on Thursday that 22 Defense Department military and civilian employees were accounted for after the attack on a luxury hotel in Bamako, Mali, according to Reuters.

There were no injuries reported among those personnel, the Pentagon said.

The gunmen have held siege at the Radisson Blu hotel, located just west of the city center in a neighborhood that is home to government ministries and diplomats, since early Friday morning.

An African Jihadist group affiliated with al Qaeda claimed responsibility on Friday for the attack and hostage-taking. The claim could not immediately be verified.

A statement from Rezidor Hotel Group, operator of the Mali hotel, said that 140 guests and 30 employees had been locked in.

The U.S. embassy in France confirmed to NBC News that there are reports of U.S. government personnel being held in the hotel. Meanwhile, a U.S. military spokesman told NBC News that U.S. special forces are helping in the hostage recovery efforts at the hotel.

As the siege progressed, security sources told local media that up to 80 hostages had been freed and three people killed. However, these figures are yet to be verified.

Among those held in the hotel included seven Turkish Airlines staff members, according to a Turkish official, and several French citizens, a source close to the French president told Reuters.

A Mali trooper, left, assist a hostage, second left, to leave the scene, from the Radisson Blu hotel to safety after gunmen attacked the hotel in Bamako, Mali, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015.
Harouna Traore | AP
A Mali trooper, left, assist a hostage, second left, to leave the scene, from the Radisson Blu hotel to safety after gunmen attacked the hotel in Bamako, Mali, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015.

Northern Mali was occupied by Islamist fighters, some with links to al Qaeda, for most of 2012. Although they were driven out by a French-led military operation, sporadic violence continues.

Witnesses in the area said police had surrounded the hotel and were blocking roads leading into the neighborhood.

The U.S. Embassy tweeted that it was "aware of an ongoing active shooter operation at the Radisson Hotel," and instructed its citizens to stay indoors.

An Islamist group claimed responsibility for the death of five people last March in an attack on a restaurant in Bamako popular with foreigners.

Reuters and NBC News contributed to this report.