Malian security officials show a jihadist flag they said belonged to attackers in front of the Radisson hotel in the capital, Bamako. (Joe Penney/Reuters)

On Friday morning, a group of armed extremists took over the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, taking 170 staff and guests hostage. Malian, French, American and European Union forces quickly responded, storming the hotel and helping to secure the safe release of most of those held. Media reports vary as to the number of confirmed casualties, but it appears that at least 20 people are dead. Among those lost is a Belgian diplomat.

Bamako’s Radisson Blu hotel is a preferred hotel of many expatriates as it is centrally located near several government ministries and the U.S. Embassy. It’s not uncommon for diplomats, security personnel and international officials visiting the capital to stay there — some for extended periods of time.

Why was the hotel attacked? It’s likely because the Radisson was the site of a meeting of the Comité de Suivi de l’Accord d’Algiers, a monitoring group that meets to ensure that the terms of the Algiers Agreement — a peace deal signed earlier this year between the Malian government and Tuareg separatists from the country’s north — are being respected.  Al Murabitoun, a jihadi extremist group with ties to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claimed credit for the attack shortly after the siege ended. Neither al Murabitoun (which is also known as al Qaeda in West Africa) nor AQIM are party to the peace agreement, and it is likely that this attack was undertaken with the intent to undermine the Algiers deal.

We’ll have several posts on the situation in Mali as more details emerge. For now, here’s a list of resources we’re finding useful in making sense of today’s events in Mali:

In addition to these resources, we’ve compiled a list of Mali experts, journalists, and analysts on Twitter to follow to keep abreast of events.

Like with previous events that have emerged on the continent, we recommend you follow Africa is a Country (@africasacountry), as they aggregate quality information on all things Africa-related.

Finally, we wrote a post in April 2014, “What happened in Mali?” that provides some background on earlier events.