(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."
Hotel was hosting peace negotiators
The assault began about 7 a.m., when two or three attackers with AK-47 rifles exited at least one vehicle with diplomatic plates and entered the hotel with guns firing, Salgado said.
The attack, Salgado said, came as the hotel hosted diplomatic delegations working on a peace process in the landlocked country, a former French colony that has been battling Islamist extremists with the help of U.N. and French forces.
The Radisson chain said that as many as 170 people -- 140 guests and 30 employees -- had been there as the attack began.
Mongi Hamdi, head of the U.N. mission in Mali, said the diplomats' meetings, which began Thursday, were a possible reason for the attack.
"I think this attack has been perpetrated by negative forces, terrorists, who do not want to see peace in Mali," Hamdi said.