Mali in mourn­ing as siege ho­tel yields clues

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BAMAKO: Mali be­gan three days of na­tional mourn­ing yes­ter­day for the vic­tims of a ji­hadist siege at a lux­ury ho­tel that left at least 19 dead, with neigh­bour­ing Sene­gal, Mau­ri­ta­nia and Guinea join­ing in sol­i­dar­ity. “The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is ad­vanc­ing,” said pros­e­cu­tor Boubacar Sidiki Sa­make, who is in charge of the anti-ter­ror­ist probe. Sa­make said po­lice hoped to soon “flush out the at­tack­ers and bring them to jus­tice,” adding that “it is clear that they had ac­com­plices who helped them come to the ho­tel”. “You will see devel­op­ments in the com­ing days,” he said, adding that po­lice had staged sev­eral raids on homes.

The po­lice found a suit­case with grenades in the ho­tel lobby and were fol­low­ing up “sev­eral leads” linked to “ob­jects” left by the gun­men, a Malian po­lice source told AFP. The at­tack has been claimed by two sep­a­rate ji­hadist groups and a man­hunt launched for three sus­pects. Gun­men went on the ram­page at the Radis­son Blu ho­tel from early morn­ing on Fri­day, shoot­ing in the cor­ri­dors and tak­ing 170 guests and staff hostage.

The as­sault, which ended when Malian and in­ter­na­tional troops stormed the build­ing, left 19 peo­ple dead, in­clud­ing 14 for­eign­ers, as well as two at­tack­ers, ac­cord­ing to a “de­fin­i­tive” re­port by the gov­ern­ment. The vic­tims in­cluded six Rus­sians, three Chi­nese, two Bel­gians, an Amer­i­can, an Is­raeli, a Sene­galese and a mem­ber of the Malian spe­cial forces. The UN peace­keep­ing force in Mali, MINUSMA, how­ever spoke of 22 fa­tal­i­ties, in­clud­ing two at­tack­ers.

Sene­gal’s Pres­i­dent Macky Sall vis­ited Bamako on Sun­day to show na­tional sol­i­dar­ity and the sup­port of the West African re­gional bloc ECOWAS which he chairs. “Mali will never be alone in this fight, we are all com­mit­ted be­cause we are all in­volved,” he said, an­nounc­ing that Mali’s neigh­bours Sene­gal, Mau­ri­ta­nia and Guinea would also ob­serve three days of mourn­ing.

New Claim of Re­spon­si­bil­ity

The Al-Mura­bitoun group, an AlQaeda af­fil­i­ate led by no­to­ri­ous oneeyed Al­ge­rian mil­i­tant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack. The group said Sun­day there were only two at­tack­ers and sug­gested they were Malian. In a record­ing broad­cast by Al-Jazeera, a spokesman iden­ti­fied them as Ab­del­hakim Al-An­sari and Moez Al-An­sari, the term “Al-An­sari” in­di­cat­ing they were in­dige­nous ji­hadists.

But a ji­hadist group from cen­tral Mali, the Macina Lib­er­a­tion Front (LWF), also claimed the at­tack in a state­ment sent to AFP Sun­day, say­ing it was car­ried out by a squad of five, in­clud­ing “three who came out safe and sound”. An in­formed source spoke of “three or four ac­com­plices” be­lieved to have aided the “for­eign” gun­men who at­tacked the ho­tel fre­quented by busi­ness­men, di­plo­mats and other ex­pa­tri­ates. “Ev­ery­thing points to two for­eign­ers,” the source said.

The same source said “it ap­pears that the two for­eign­ers went from bar to bar to avoid at­tract­ing at­ten­tion, and at dawn (Fri­day), Malians may have guided them in the at­tack on the Radis­son”. Guinean singer Sek­ouba Bam­bino Di­a­bate, who was among the sur­vivors, told AFP the gun­men spoke English among them­selves. French De­fence Min­is­ter Jean-Yves Le Drian has said Belmokhtar, one of the world’s most wanted men, was “likely” the brains be­hind the as­sault. “He is cir­cu­lat­ing,” he said of the Al­ge­rian ji­hadist be­lieved to be in Libya.

Re­turn to Nor­mal Life

De­spite a state of emer­gency im­posed late Fri­day, res­i­dents of Bamako were try­ing to re­turn to nor­mal life. Se­cu­rity re­mained high at the ma­jor ho­tels and was tighter than usual, though more discreet, at pub­lic build­ings and banks. “Peo­ple are not be­ing vig­i­lant. We forget. I don’t know whether it’s be­cause of the prob­lems of daily life, but peo­ple just aren’t be­ing care­ful here,” said ho­tel worker Daouda Sis­soko.

Oth­ers are con­cerned that Fri­day’s at­tack will have more eco­nomic reper­cus­sions for a coun­try still re­cov­er­ing from a 2012-13 civil war. Mali has been torn apart by un­rest since the north fell un­der the con­trol of ji­hadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in 2012. The Is­lamists were largely ousted by a French-led mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion launched the fol­low­ing year, but large swathes of Mali re­main lawless. France has more than 1,000 troops in its for­mer colony, a key bat­tle­ground of the Barkhane counter-terror mis­sion span­ning five coun­tries in Africa’s restive Sa­hel re­gion. —AFP

This photo made from the footage taken from Rus­sian de­fense min­istry’s of­fi­cial web­site yes­ter­day shows fuel tanks hit dur­ing an at­tack by Rus­sian war­planes in Syria. —AP

BAMAKO: A man reads a news­pa­per near a news­stand yes­ter­day, three days af­ter a deadly at­tack at the Radis­son Blu ho­tel. — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.