Nov 22, 2015

Mali Hotel Attack: Police Hunt For Three Suspects

Malian security forces are hunting three suspects connected to the attack on a hotel in the capital, Bamako, on Friday, in which 19 people were killed.

Two militants were also killed, after special forces stormed the hotel, freeing dozens of trapped guests.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has declared a state of emergency and three days of national mourning.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its affiliate, al-Murabitoun, said they carried out the attack.
Gunmen entered the upscale Radisson Blu hotel on Friday morning, shooting as their vehicle broke through a security barrier, one eyewitness said.

Most of the hotel guests and staff were later freed when Malian special forces, French special forces and off-duty US servicemen stormed the hotel to end the siege.

Evidence of a gunfight can be seen inside one of the hotel bedrooms

It is not clear if the suspects being looked for took part in the attack or are accomplices who helped the gunmen.

It is not clear how many gunmen too part. Eyewitnesses said up to 13 entered the hotel shooting and shouting “God is greatest!” in Arabic, however the company that runs the hotel, Rezidor Group, said on Friday that only two attackers were involved.

The victims
Geoffrey Dieudonne, an official at the parliament in Belgium’s Wallonia region
Three Chinese people – Zhou Tianxiang and Wang Xuanshang and Chang Xuehui were executives from the state-owned China Railway Construction Corp, the company said in a statement on its website
US national Anita Datar, 41, was in Mali working on projects involving family planning and HIV
Several Russians were also killed, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russian news agencies

Among those killed were three Chinese business executives, and China’s President Xi Jinping has called the attack “cruel and savage”, Reuters news agency reports.

A US national also died, and US President Barack Obama said the attack was yet another reminder that the “scourge of terrorism” threatened many nations.

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said three Britons who had been in the hotel were safe.

President Keita said Mali would “do everything to eradicate terrorism” in the country.

The claim by a Saharan jihadist group allied to al-Qaeda that they were behind the attack is a reminder that the country still faces an insurgency.

Some of the guests were holed up in their rooms as the militants took control of the hotel

Hostages of many different nationalities had been seized by the militants

In 2013, French forces managed to reverse the takeover of much of Mali by Islamist militants.

But it is a large country with porous borders and areas of ungoverned space in which jihadist groups have been able to hide and plan attacks, our correspondent says.

It has not been helped by the ease with which weapons can come across from Libya, nor by the proximity of a murderous insurgency in Nigeria.

There is as yet no established link with the attacks in Paris one week ago that killed 130 people.

In August, suspected Islamist gunmen killed 13 people, including five UN workers, during a hostage siege at a hotel in the central Malian town of Sevare.

France, the former colonial power in Mali, intervened in the country in January 2013, when al-Qaeda-linked militants threatened to march on Bamako after taking control of the north of the country.

The UN force in Mali took over responsibility for security in the country from French and African troops in July 2013, after the main towns in the north had been recaptured from the Islamist militants.

Militancy in Mali:
October 2011: Ethnic Tuaregs launch rebellion after returning with arms from Libya
March 2012: Army coup over government’s handling of rebellion, a month later Tuareg and al-Qaeda-linked fighters seize control of north
June 2012: Islamist groups capture Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao from Tuaregs, start to destroy Muslim shrines and manuscripts and impose Sharia
January 2013: Islamist fighters capture a central town, raising fears they could reach Bamako. Mali requests French help
July 2013: UN force, now totalling about 12,000, takes over responsibility for securing the north after Islamists routed from towns
July 2014: France launches an operation in the Sahel to stem jihadist groups
Attacks continue in northern desert area, blamed on Tuareg and Islamist groups
2015: Terror attacks in the capital, Bamako, and central Mali

Credit: BBC

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