Sus­pected mil­i­tants at­tack ho­tel in Mali

The Washington Post - - THE WORLD - BY BABA AHMED

ba­mako, mali — Sus­pected Is­lamist mil­i­tants at­tacked a ho­tel re­sort Sun­day in Mali’s cap­i­tal, tak­ing hostages at a spot pop­u­lar with for­eign­ers on the week­ends. The num­ber of ca­su­al­ties was un­clear, and the as­sault con­tin­ued into the evening, au­thor­i­ties said.

Gun­fire first rang out at the Cam­pe­ment Kangaba on the out­skirts of Ba­mako in the late af­ter­noon, ac­cord­ing to a se­cu­rity of­fi­cial with the U.N. mis­sion known as MINUSMA. The of­fi­cial spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to talk to re­porters.

“I heard gun­fire com­ing from the camp and I saw peo­ple run­ning out of the site,” said Modibo Diarra, who lives nearby. “I learned that it was a ter­ror­ist at­tack.”

Malian sol­diers later suc­ceeded in en­ter­ing the re­sort area, ac­cord­ing to Com­man­dant Modibo Traore, a spokesman for the Malian Spe­cial Forces in the for­mer French colony.

“The op­er­a­tion is on­go­ing,” he said, es­ti­mat­ing that there were three or four as­sailants.

As night fell, wit­nesses saw smoke ris­ing from the Cam­pe­ment Kangaba re­sort, which has three swim­ming pools and is a pop­u­lar es­cape from the Malian heat. It was not im­me­di­ately clear what was burn­ing, al­though Is­lamist mil­i­tants in other at­tacks have set cars ablaze.

There was no im­me­di­ate claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack, which came amid the fi­nal week of the Mus­lim holy month of Ra­madan. In pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim Mali, peo­ple have been fast­ing from sun­rise to sun­down for three weeks.

Sun­day’s vi­o­lence came about a week af­ter the U.S. State Depart­ment warned of pos­si­ble at­tacks on West­ern diplo­matic mis­sions and other lo­ca­tions in Ba­mako that Western­ers fre­quent.

The U.N. of­fi­cial said those at the re­sort when the at­tack be­gan in­cluded peo­ple af­fil­i­ated with the French mil­i­tary mis­sion as well as the U.N. and Euro­pean Union mis­sions in the coun­try.

Re­li­gious ex­trem­ism in Mali once was lim­ited to north­ern ar­eas, prompt­ing the French mil­i­tary in 2013 to lead a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion to oust Is­lamist mil­i­tants from power in the ma­jor towns. But the mil­i­tants have con­tin­ued tar­get­ing Malian forces and peace­keep­ers, mak­ing it the dead­li­est U.N. mis­sion in the world.

There are no French troops based in Ba­mako, but about 2,000 French troops are based in north­ern Mali fight­ing Is­lamic ex­trem­ists.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron was in­formed about the at­tack and was fol­low­ing the events care­fully, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial in his of­fice.

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