18 people reported killed at the Radisson in Bamako

A hostage is brought to safety during the attack
A hostage is brought to safety during the attack

There are no more hostages left in the luxury hotel attacked by gunmen in Mali, according to state TV, but 18 bodies have been found so far.

Malian special forces earlier entered the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako and freed scores of people, according to a military spokesman.

Army commander Modibo Nama Traore said 10 gunmen stormed the hotel shouting "Allahu Akbar" - "God is great" in Arabic - before firing on the guards and taking hostages.

National broadcaster ORTM, citing security officials, said 18 bodies had already been found at the hotel and that no more hostages were being held.

A source with Mali's UN mission said at least 12 bodies had been recovered.

It was not immediately clear whether any attackers were still alive inside the hotel. Gunfire continued into the late afternoon, and Mr Traore said operations were continuing.

An extremist group that two years ago split from al Qaida's North Africa branch claimed responsibility for the attack.

The group, led by Moktar Belmoktar, said it wanted fighters freed from Mali's prisons and for attacks against northern Malians to stop.

The jihadist group, known as the Mourabitounes, was formed in 2013 after Belmoktar left al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and fused with a Malian militant group.

The statement said the Mourabitounes attacked in co-ordination with the "Sahara Emirate" affiliated with al Qaida.