Four assailants have been killed by security forces in Mali after an attack on a tourist resort popular with foreigners close to the capital Bamako, the country’s security minister said late Sunday.
“We have recovered the bodies of two attackers who were killed,” Salif Traore told journalists, adding that they were “searching for the bodies of two others”, without specifying if any more were on the run.
“We were able to rescue nearly 36 guests and workers from the resort”, including around 15 French nationals and a similar number of Malians.
The assault on the Kangaba Le Campement resort, an “ecolodge” run by a Frenchman, is the latest in a series of high-profile assaults by jihadists in north and west Africa targeting locals and tourists.
Suspected jihadists crying “Allahu Akbar” stormed a tourist resort popular with foreigners on the edge of the Malian capital Bamako on Sunday, briefly seizing more than 30 hostages and leaving two dead.
The assault on the Kangaba Le Campement resort comes after a similar strike less than two years ago on a luxury hotel in Bamako, which lies in the south of the troubled country. Security forces who battled the gunmen at the site were continuing Sunday evening to search for the assailants who fled.
Nearby residents had first reported the attack after hearing shots while smoke billowed into the air, with at least one building ablaze. “It is a jihadist attack. Malian special forces intervened,” Security minister Salif Traore said. They were backed up by UN soldiers and troops from a French counter-terrorism force.
Black smoke rises from tourist resort in Bamako, Mali as 'major attack' unfolds. pic.twitter.com/OWv75mAc41— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) June 18, 2017
“Unfortunately for the moment there are two dead, including a Franco-Gabonese,” he said on Sunday, adding that the second body was being identified.
At least “32 hostages” were freed, Mali’s army said in a statement, adding that one of the attackers was wounded and gave up his weapon. He also left behind “bottles containing some explosive substances”, the security ministry said.
At least 14 people, both Malians and foreigners, were injured, according to the ministry.
A witness interviewed on local television ORTM said he saw a man arrive on a motorcycle who “started shooting at the crowd” followed by “two or three people” who came in another vehicle. The landlocked west African country has been fighting a jihadist insurgency for several years, with Islamist fighters roaming the north and centre of Mali.
French president Emmanuel Macron, who is scheduled to visit Bamako on 2 July for a meeting with five Sahel countries, “is following the situation very closely,” the presidency said Sunday.
Several people rescued at Kangaba said assailants had shouted “Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest)”, although no group has yet claimed responsibility. The US embassy in Bamako had warned earlier this month “of a possible increased threat of attacks against Western diplomatic missions, places of worship, and other locations in Bamako where Westerners frequent”.
At a France-Africa summit in Bamako in January, the owner of Kangaba, Herve Depardieu, had complained about the “alarming security information” given by foreign consulates “which seriously disturb our love of life and our freedoms”.
In November 2015, gunmen took guests and staff hostage at the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako in a siege that left at least 20 people dead, including 14 foreigners. That attack was claimed by Al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
In March the same year, a grenade and gun attack on La Terrasse nightclub in Bamako killed five people, including foreigners. The Kangaba, located on the eastern edge of Bamako, boasts accommodation in hut-style rooms, as well as restaurants and swimming pools, according to its website.
A state of emergency has been renewed several times since the Radisson Blu attack, most recently in April when it was extended for six months, but attacks are continuing.