Update 2 - 12:20 p.m.: At least 27 people were reported dead on Friday after Malian commandos stormed a luxury hotel in the capital Bamako with at least 170 people inside, many of them foreigners, that had been seized by Islamist gunmen. Mali special forces were still trying to dislodge gunment from hotel.

Update 1 11:30 a.m. - : A Malian official told local media that there were no more hostages being held at the Bamako hotel.

Earlier: An African jihadist group affiliated with al Qaeda claimed responsibility for an attack Friday at a luxury hotel in Mali's capital, Bamako.

Earlier Friday morning, 80 out of 170 hostages that had been held by Islamist gunmen were freed from the hotel as government special forces moved floor by floor to clear the building, Mali's state broadcaster and a security source.

Al-Mourabitoun, a group based in northern Mali and made up mostly of Tuaregs and Arabs, posted a message on Twitter saying it was behind the attack on the Radisson Blu hotel, where hostages are still being held.

The claim could not immediately be verified.

"The attackers are still inside. We're hearing gunfire from time to time," said a witness outside the Radisson Blu hotel earlier Friday.

Islamist gunmen had stormed the 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 to al Qaeda for several years. A Malian official later told local media outlet BFM TV that there were no more hostages in the hotel. 

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.

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Northern Mali was occupied by Islamist fighters, some with links to al Qaeda, for most of 2012. They were driven out by a French-led military operation, but sporadic violence has continued in Mali's central belt on the southern reaches of the Sahara, and in Bamako.

The security source said as many as 10 gunmen had stormed the building, firing shots and shouting "Allahu Akbar", or "God is great" in Arabic. The hotel's head of security said two private security guards had been injured in the early stages of the attack, which began at 7 a.m. 

A French presidential source said French citizens were in the hotel. The Chinese state news agency Xinhua said several Chinese tourists were among those trapped inside the building. Turkish Airlines also said it had six staff inside.

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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.

In the wake of last week's Paris attacks, an Islamic State militant in Syria said the organization viewed France's military intervention in Mali as another reason to attack France and French interests.

"This is just the beginning. We also haven't forgotten what happened in Mali," said the non-Syrian fighter.

"The bitterness from Mali, the arrogance of the French, will not be forgotten at all."