Security forces surround the Radisson hotel, Bamako, Mali. Photograph: EPA
A terror attack at a luxury hotel in Bamako, Mali, on Friday has highlighted the world’s developing vulnerability to extremist violence, with at least 27 men and women located dead when specific forces sooner or later re-took the developing.
Significantly less than a week after the Paris gun and suicide bomb attacks in which 130 individuals were killed, a group of heavily-armed and seemingly well-trained gunmen stormed the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, employing a vehicle with diplomatic number plates to drive unchallenged into an inner compound.
Once there, witnesses stated, they detonated grenades and opened fire at safety guards just before taking hostage around 170 individuals, amongst them diplomats, a celebrated Guinean singer and air crew from France and Turkey, as nicely as Indian and Chinese nationals.
The siege was the newest in a string of current high-profile terror attacks, from bombings in Beirut and the downing of a Russian airline over the Sinai desert to the events of the streets of Paris.
By late Friday evening Malian specific forces, assisted by counterparts from the US and France, had fought their way by means of the hotel, floor by floor, reportedly killing at least two of the gunmen.
Related: Mali hotel attack – in photographs
At least 30 people escaped during the siege and UN peacekeeping troops stated they had discovered at least 27 bodies in a preliminary search of the hotel. The toll could well rise, with some gunmen reportedly nevertheless holed up in an upper floor of the developing on Friday evening.
“The attackers no longer have hostages,” said security ministry spokesman Amadou Sanghou. “They are dug in in the upper floors. They are alone with the Malian specific forces who are trying to dislodge them.”
A military official said the gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar” as they began the attack. Al-Mourabitoun, an African jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, claimed duty in a message posted on Twitter.
The bloody attack is a blow to for Mali’s president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, who rushed back from a meeting of regional leaders in Chad. It also marks one more reverse for François Hollande, whose country ruled Mali for 68 years till 1960. The French president gained important political capital for his 2013 selection to commit French troops to driving Islamist forces out of the north of Mali.
Hollande personally flew out to Timbuktu in February 2013, five days right after French forces had routed the occupying jihadists, to hail the operation, saying it had “brought hope to the populations of northern Mali”.
His deployment of 3,700 French ground troops to help the faltering efforts of Mali’s military had been noticed as deeply risky, but in the finish it took just 23 days for the French to retake most of a swath of territory held for nine months by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim).
Al-Mourabitoun – whose claim that it carried out the hotel attack is however to be verified – is a much more current incarnation of militant Islamism. Based in northern Mali, it is created up largely of Tuaregs and Arabs and was formed only about two years ago.
The attack on the Radisson, one of Bamako’s plushest hotels in a neighbourhood also home to government ministries and diplomats, appeared notably brutal, although it remained unclear how a lot of individuals were killed by the attackers and who may well have died whilst the hotel was stormed by troops.
State television showed footage of soldiers in camouflage fatigues wielding AK47s in the lobby of the hotel. In the background, a physique lay under a brown blanket at the bottom of a flight of stairs.
The UN peacekeepers saw 12 dead bodies in the basement of the hotel and yet another 15 on the second floor, a UN official told Reuters. He said the UN troops were nonetheless helping Malian authorities search the hotel.
The hotel’s owner, the Rezidor Hotel Group, stated 170 guests and staff had been initially trapped. Some fled or escaped, with reports that the hostage-takers freed those who had been in a position to quote passages from the Qur’an.
Among the released hostages was a well-known Guinean singer, Sékouba “Bambino” Diabaté, who told reporters he heard some of the attackers in the room next to him speaking to each other in English. “I heard them say in English ‘Did you load it?’, ‘Let’s go’,” he mentioned. “I wasn’t able to see them simply because in these types of scenarios it’s difficult.”
Air France mentioned 12 of its crew who have been staying in the hotel were protected. It cancelled its scheduled flights to and from Bamako for Friday. Turkish Airlines had around seven or eight employees staying at the hotel, with most of them released just before the constructing was re-taken.
India’s foreign ministry mentioned 20 Indian nationals were among the hostages, but that they were all known to be alive. Seven Algerians, such as diplomats, had been trapped in a hotel, according to the country’s foreign ministry.
The Pentagon mentioned 22 military and civilian employees in the city have been accounted for after the attack.
The US Africa Command mentioned forces stationed in Mali helped to secure the scene, even though France’s national gendarme service stated about 40 French specific police forces, based in Bamako, took part in the assault on the hotel. A security supply told Reuters the troops cleared the creating floor by floor. “The attackers are nevertheless inside. We’re hearing gunfire from time to time,” a witness outside the hotel told the agency following the hostages have been freed.
Ban Ki-moon condemned the “horrific” attack, his spokesman saying the UN secretary common expressed “full assistance to the Malian authorities in their fight against terrorist and extremist groups”.
Northern Mali was occupied by rebel fighters, some with links to al-Qaida, for most of 2012. Although they have been driven out by the French-led military operation, sporadic violence continues.
In the two and a half years because the French intervention, Mali and its international partners have been operating to rebuild, with elections later in 2013 returning Keïta to energy. The 70-year-old who had previously been president from 1994 to 2000.
This summer time, long-running peace talks in Algiers saw agreement among Mali’s government and Tuareg-led separatist rebels, which granted greater autonomy to northern regions and aimed to avoid a repeat of the 2012 uprising.
But, as with Afghanistan or Iraq, the conflict has by no means fully gone away, with a selection of armed groups still operating in the north, including jihadi offshoots such as al-Mourabitoun, as properly as various separatist organisations.
Not too long ago, the jihadi difficulty has shown indicators of creeping into central and southern Mali. The Radisson attack follows a nearly 24-hour siege and hostage-taking at another hotel in August in the central Malian town of Sevare in which 5 UN workers have been killed, along with four soldiers and 4 attackers.
5 individuals, like a French citizen and a Belgian, had been also killed in an attack at a restaurant in Bamako in March, in the very first such incident in the capital. Both attacks have been also claimed by al-Mourabitoun.