At least 21 people including foreign nationals from Belgium and the United States were killed on Friday during a terror attack in Mali.

Heavily armed men took around a hundred hostages at the Radisson Blu hotel in the capital city of Bamako after tricking the security with fake license plates to enter the building. According to hotel authorities, there were 13 employees and 125 guests inside when the gunmen burst into the lobby.

The guests, consisting of flight attendants, pilots, business people and diplomats, included foreign nationals from Algeria, Turkey, China, India and Europe. While the Belgian and the American citizens have been identified, the identities of other victims are still undisclosed.

A receptionist said the attackers, “armed to the teeth,” were shouting “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the greatest) while cutting a white man’s throat. According to the United Nations, at least 19 people as well as two or three gunmen were killed in the attack, NY Times reported.

Gen. Didier Dacko of the Malian Army said soldiers entered the building “looking for the terrorists” and sealed the premises. Dozens of guests, including children, women and old people hid in their rooms. Many of them barely clothed cried while moving out of the hotel with many of them.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the terrorists asked hostages to recite verses of the Quran to separate Muslims from non-Muslims. Those who could recite the Shahada, the declaration of Muslim faith, were allowed to leave the building. An al-Qaeda affiliate in East Africa, the al-Shabab, used a similar method in 2013 during an attack in Nairobi.

Around 15 American citizens are believed to be at the hotel during the attack, said a U.S. Defence official. Six of them are safe while the fate of the rest of them is still unclear, he said.

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