Mali es­cape for SA men

At least 27 dead af­ter gun­men at­tack ho­tel SA mom’s anguish at death of IS fighter

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - WEEK­END AR­GUS RE­PORTERS

BAMAKO, Mali – A Jef­freys Bay en­gi­neer based in Mali was bar­ri­caded for hours in an in­ter­na­tional agency build­ing near the ho­tel at­tacked by ji­hadists yes­ter­day.

At least 27 peo­ple are be­lieved to have died, in­clud­ing a Bel­gian diplo­mat. Malian pres­i­dent Ibrahim Boubacar Keita cut short a trip to a re­gional sum­mit in Chad, his of­fice said.

Four South African pi­lots are un­der­stood to have been holed up in the same build­ing as the en­gi­neer.

The man, whose name may not be dis­closed for se­cu­rity rea­sons, said they had had food, wa­ter, camp beds and sleep­ing bags and could have held out for some time.

Over a few hours yes­ter­day the en­gi­neer re­layed in­for­ma­tion via terse mes­sages to Week­end Ar­gus as re­ports of more deaths sur­faced and spe­cial forces made their way through the lux­ury ho­tel.

“US spe­cial forces on the scene with the French.

“Malian spe­cial forces al­ready up to 6th floor. More than… 3 are dead. Were shot through ho­tel doors,” he wrote. “City dead quiet.” Around 6pm he mes­saged: “They took 18 bod­ies out of the ho­tel. I think it will be over soon.”

The at­tack on the Radis­son started early yes­ter­day when ji­hadists stormed the ho­tel and took 170 hostages.

Au­to­matic weapons fire was heard on the sev­enth floor of the 190- room ho­tel, where it was thought as many as 10 gun­men roamed through the build­ing, look­ing for guests and mem­bers of staff.

By late yes­ter­day all the sur­viv­ing hostages had been freed, but it was un­der­stood a num­ber of the at­tack­ers were holed up on the ho­tel’s roof. Three had been killed.

Among the vic­tims were Bel­gian diplo­mat Ge­of­frey Dieudonne and a French na­tional, with the ini­tial death toll likely to rise.

Twenty-two Amer­i­cans were res­cued un­harmed but 12 bod­ies were found in the ho­tel’s base­ment and a fur­ther 15 vic­tims were dis­cov­ered on the sec­ond floor.

Res­cuers led by US Spe­cial Forces tried to fin­ish off the gun­men. The al-Qaeda-af­fil­i­ated group Al-Moura­bitoun, based in north­ern Mali, has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack.

Sev­eral wit­nesses said the gun­men en­tered through the gates of the ho­tel in a car with a diplo­matic num­ber plate be­fore open­ing fire with AK47s and throw­ing grenades in­side the build­ing. The gun­men spoke to the hostages in English, ac­cord­ing to one freed hostage.

Guinean singer Sek­ouba “Bam- bino” Di­a­bate, who was freed by Malian se­cu­rity forces, told the Daily Mail he had hid­den un­der his bed and heard the at­tack­ers in the ad­join­ing room say in English, “Did you load it?” and “Let’s go.”

“I wasn’t able to see them be­cause in these kinds of sit­u­a­tions it’s hard. I woke up with the sounds of gun­shots and for me, it was just small ban­dits who came in the ho­tel to claim some­thing.

“Af­ter 20 or 30 min­utes, I re­alised these are not just petty crim­i­nals,” said Di­a­bate.

The ho­tel’s head of se­cu­rity, Sey­dou Dem­bele, said two se­cu­rity guards had been shot in the legs in the early stages of the as­sault.

“We saw two of the at­tack­ers. One was wear­ing a bal­a­clava. The other was black- skinned. They forced the first bar­rier,” Dem­bele told Reuters.

Within min­utes of the as­sault, po­lice and then sol­diers had sur­rounded the ho­tel and blocked roads lead­ing to the neigh­bour­hood.

Dieudonne, an of­fi­cial with the par­lia­ment of Bel­gium’s French­s­peak­ing com­mu­nity, had been in Mali for a con­ven­tion.

“Mr Dieudonne, with other for­eign col­leagues, was in Mali to give a sem­i­nar for Malian par­lia­men­tar­i­ans,” the Brus­sels- based par­lia­ment said.

Two work­ers for Turk­ish Air­lines and six Chi­nese na­tion­als are thought to be among the miss­ing hostages.

Twelve mem­bers of an Air France crew were re­leased from the ho­tel by Malian spe­cial forces while five other Turk­ish Air­lines em­ploy­ees man­aged to es­cape from the ho­tel, Turk­ish of­fi­cials con­firmed.

Yes­ter­day South Africa’s In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co-op­er­a­tion De­part­ment spokesman Clayson Monyela said it was not clear JOYCE Snyman clutched an im­age of her son’s driv­ing li­cence. The 70-year-old Dur­ban grand­mother wanted to know if her son, a sus­pected Is­lamic State fighter, was dead or alive.

Snyman’s 44-year old son Aqeel Ab­dul-Haq Kloberie was re­port­edly an IS ter­ror­ist, killed in com­bat in Iraq, if re­ports on so­cial me­dia are ac­cu­rate.

Kloberie had con­verted from Chris­tian­ity to Is­lam in 1991, af­ter fin­ish­ing high school.

A tweet by @IraqLiveUp­date showed a man hold­ing an SA driver’s li­cence bear­ing the de­tails of an AA Kloberie. The text ac­com­pa­ny­ing the im­age read: “Dead Daesh ter­ror­ist held South African driv­ers li­cence! #SouthAfrica joins the club..#Iraq.”

Clayson Monyela, spokesman for the De­part­ment of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co-op­er­a­tion, said it was wait­ing for the De­part­ment of Home Af­fairs to ver­ify the li­cence and would li­aise with the man’s fam­ily. “If the body is that ( of Kloberie), we will be­gin pro­cesses to bring the body home.”

Snyman had been wait­ing for five months to hear from her son, who had left for Bahrain in March.

“He works in the oil re­finer­ies, and had re­cently fin­ished work­ing for Eskom at the Medupi plant.”

It was her grand­son who alerted her to the tweet on Thurs­day. “It was a shock when we saw this... But all we know is that his li­cence was found on a body, but we don’t know if the body is his, it could be any­one... I am so con­fused, I just want to find out if my child is alive.”

Na’eem Jeenah, di­rec­tor of the Afro-Mid­dle East Cen­tre, said he was treat­ing the im­age “with a pinch of salt” be­cause IS fight­ers of­ten de­nounced their ci­ti­zen­ship. “Why would you (still) need an SA driver’s li­cence?”

‘I woke up with the

whether any South Africans had been caught up in yes­ter­day’s at­tack.

He said the de­part­ment was try­ing to find this out and mon­i­tor­ing de­vel­op­ments.

The en­gi­neer said he had gone to work early yes­ter­day and had been 4km away when the gun­men had stormed the ho­tel. One of the en­gi­neer’s col­leagues had been 60m away from the Radis­son when the at­tack started.

While shocked, the en­gi­neer said his col­league was fine.

There had been four South Africans, pi­lots who flew hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sions and for mines, who had been with him in the in­ter­na­tional agency build­ing yes­ter­day.

The en­gi­neer said they had re­placed other pi­lots who were sent home in Au­gust af­ter sur­viv­ing a sim­i­lar at­tack at the Ho­tel Byblos in the Malian town of Se­vare.

Thir­teen peo­ple were killed in that at­tack.

Last night the en­gi­neer said be­cause of the na­ture of his work, he no longer feared for his safety.

“You be­come used to this way of life. Been threat­ened to be killed, shot at, car burnt, etc, etc. Not wor­ried.”

State tele­vi­sion showed footage of troops wield­ing AK47s in the lobby of the Radis­son, one of Bamako’s smartest hotels. In the back­ground, a body lay un­der a brown blan­ket at the bot­tom of a flight of stairs.

Min­is­ter of In­ter­nal Se­cu­rity Colonel Salif Traoré said the gun­men had burst through a se­cu­rity bar­rier at 9am SA time, spray­ing the area with gun­fire and shout­ing “Al­lahu Ak­bar”, or “God is great” in Ara­bic.

NOVEM­BER 21 2015

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

AS­SAULT: French sol­diers leave the Radis­son Blu ho­tel in Bamako, Mali, yes­ter­day af­ter storm­ing the build­ing fol­low­ing an at­tack by Is­lamic ji­hadists. At least 27 ho­tel res­i­dents and vis­i­tors were be­lieved dead.

PIC­TURE: EPA

SAVED: An in­jured hostage is car­ried by se­cu­rity forces from the Radis­son Blu ho­tel dur­ing the at­tack yes­ter­day.

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