Malian special forces have entered the Radisson Blu Hotel in the centre of Mali’s capital, Bamako, where suspected Islamists are holding dozens of guests and staff hostage, the BBC reports.
At least three people were killed after gunmen entered the hotel shooting, and shouting “God is great!” in Arabic.
The hotel is popular with expat workers.
A Malian army commander told the AP news agency that about 20 hostages have been freed.
Hostages able to recite verses of the Koran were being released, a security source has told Reuters news agency.
Six staff from Turkish Airlines are staying at the hotel, and a Chinese guest told China’s state news agency Xinhua that he was among about seven Chinese tourists trapped there.
A French presidential source said French citizens were in the hotel, Reuters news agency reports.