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CNN —  

Heavily armed gunmen on Friday fired indiscriminately at guests at a hotel hosting diplomats and others in Mali’s capital, the maître d’ told CNN.

At least 21 people were killed in the attack in which an al Qaeda-affiliated group is taking partial responsibility.

“These people started shooting. They were shooting at everybody without asking a single question. They were shooting at anything that moved,” Tamba Couye said of the attack at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako.

One man did yell “Allahu akbar,” said Couye, who was working in the restaurant where breakfast was underway. The attackers sounded like they were from northern Mali, he told “Erin Burnett OutFront.”

Couye said an attacker chased him from the hotel but he came back later to help because his instincts told him he needed to do so to save lives.

Dozens of people were trapped in the building for hours, officials in the West African nation said, before Malian and U.N. security forces launched a counterattack and rushed guests away.

Olivier Salgado, a spokesman for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, put the death toll at 21.

At least six people injured in the attack have been hospitalized, Health Minister Marie Madeleine Togo told state broadcaster ORTM.