Bamak: Special forces in Mali killed two assailants and freed all hostages after an attack on Sunday in which at least another two people died at a resort that’s popular with foreigners on the outskirts of the capital, Bamako.
The “terrorist attack” started at 4pm at Le Campement Kangaba, near the suburb of Dougourakoro, the security ministry said in a statement on its website.
Security forces and soldiers arrived at the scene and freed 36 visitors of the resort, the ministry said.
Eight people were injured while another two attackers “are actively pursued by the anti-terrorist special forces that continue to search the site,” the ministry said.
A French-Gabonese citizen was killed, Baba Cisse, a spokesman of the security ministry, said by phone. The second person was from Angola, according to Mauritanian newspaper Al Khabar, citing Malian sources it didn’t identify.
Sunday’s assault follows less than two years after militants carried out an attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako in November 2015, killing more than 20 people.
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.
Four assailants were killed by security forces, Mali’s security minister said late Sunday, without specifying if more were on the run.
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 militant attack. Malian special forces intervened,” Security Minister Salif Traore told journalists, adding that two people had been killed, including a Franco-Gabonese.
He later told journalists that “we have recovered the bodies of two attackers who were killed” and were searching for the bodies of two others.
“We were able to rescue around 36 guests and workers from the resort”, including around 15 French nationals and a similar number of Malians, he added.
The special forces were supported by UN soldiers and French counter-terrorism troops.
Mali’s army earlier said 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 militant 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 July 2 for a meeting with five Sahel countries, “is following the situation very closely,” the presidency told journalists on 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 Qaida’s North African affiliate Al Qaida 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.
In 2012 Mali’s north fell under the control of militant groups linked to Al Qaida who hijacked an ethnic Tawareq-led rebel uprising, though the Islamists were largely ousted by a French-led military operation in January 2013.
But militants have continued to mount numerous attacks on civilians and the army, as well as on French and UN forces still stationed there.
The unrest has continued despite a 2015 peace deal between the government and Tawareq-led rebels offering partial autonomy to the north.
Sunday’s attack is the latest in a series of high-profile assaults in north and West Africa, targeting locals and tourists.
In January 2016, 30 people were killed, including many foreigners, in an attack on a top Burkina Faso hotel and a nearby restaurant in the capital Ouagadougou. AQIM claimed the assault, saying the gunmen were from the Al-Murabitoun group of Algerian extremist Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
In March 2016, at least 14 civilians and two special forces troops were killed when gunmen stormed the Ivorian beach resort of Grand-Bassam, which was also claimed by AQIM.
The United Nations has a 12,000-strong force in Mali known as MINUSMA, which began operations in 2013.
It has been targeted constantly by militants, with dozens of peacekeepers killed, including five on Saturday.
France also has 4,000 soldiers in its Bakhane force in five countries — Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso — all of which are threatened by the militants across their porous borders.