Islamic militants waged yet another Islamic Jihad attack in North Africa. The death toll has now climbed to 19 as the majority of the Western media still refuse to accept the resurgence of the centuries-old jihad.
(Via Reuters) Islamist militants killed 19 people in an attack on a top hotel in the capital of Mali before Malian commandos stormed the building and rescued 170 people, many of them foreigners. Two militants were killed.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced the death toll and said seven people were wounded in the attack, which has been claimed by jihadist group Al Mourabitoun and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Friday’s assault on the Radisson Blu hotel comes a week after deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Tha Mali attack was the latest in a series of deadly raids this year on high-profile targets in the country, which has battled Islamist rebels based in its desert north for years.
“Tonight the death toll is heavy,” Keita said on state television, declaring a 10-day state of emergency and three days of national mourning. The president, who cut a short visit to a regional summit in Chad, said two militants also died.
In a speech on the sidelines of a summit with Asian nations in Malaysia, U.S. President Barack Obama described the raid in Mali as “another awful reminder of the scourge of terrorism”.
“Once again, this barbarity only stiffens our resolve to meet this challenge,” he said. “We will stand with the people of Mali as they work to rid their country of terrorists and strengthen their democracy. With allies and partners, the United States will be relentless.”
The attack is a sharp setback for former colonial power France, which has stationed 3,500 troops in northern Mali to try to restore stability after a rebellion in 2012 by ethnic Tuaregs that was later hijacked by jihadists linked to al Qaeda.
It also puts a spotlight on veteran militant leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, whose group Al Mourabitoun staged the attack months after he was reported killed in an air strike.
Minister of Internal Security Colonel Salif Traoré said the gunmen burst through a hotel security barrier at 7 a.m. (2.00 a.m. ET/0700 GMT), spraying the area with gunfire and shouting “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is great” in Arabic.
“At first I thought it was a carjacking. Then they killed two guards in front of me and shot another man in the stomach and wounded him and I knew it was something more,” said Modi Coulibaly, a Malian legal expert who saw the assault start. (read more)
(Via Reuters) If Islamist militant group Al Mourabitoun is confirmed as responsible for Friday’s killings at a hotel in Mali it will be the latest time it has staged a major attack despite setbacks and the supposed death of its leader.
Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar has been a key figure for years in insurgencies across North Africa and the Saharan border region, but in June authorities in Libya said he had been killed by a U.S. air strike there.
U.S. military officials said he was targeted, only for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to deny four days later that he was dead.
In a statement posted on Twitter on June 19, the group said he was “still alive and well and he wanders and roams in the land of Allah, supporting his allies and vexing his enemies”.
His group now claims to have stormed the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako on Friday in a joint operation with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). At least 27 people have been reported killed and gunmen were still holding out against Malian commandos many hours later.
Al Mourabitoun has staged several attacks in Mali and the region, but Belmokhtar has had a troubled relationship with al Qaeda. His group has not pledged allegiance to Islamic State, as Nigerian militant group Boko Haram did in March.
One security source said the Bamako attack could serve to sway global attention to al Qaeda from Islamic State, which controls a swathe of Iraq and Syria and launched coordinated assaults a week ago in Paris in which at least 129 people died.
Al Mourabitoun “is an offshoot of al Qaeda, whose roots go back to the Algerian insurgency of the 1990s … Their strategy has been to launch these fairly dramatic attacks,” said Gregory Mann, professor of West African history at Columbia University in New York.
The group’s leadership is mostly from Algeria and Mauritania but it has flourished in Mali and drawn militants from other West African countries including Togo, Burkina Faso and Ghana, he said. (read more)