At least two people have been killed and 20 were taken hostage after an African resort popular with Westerners was stormed by gunmen shouting ‘Allahu Akhbar’.
Shots were heard by local residents near Le Campement Kangaba, to the eastern edge of the Malian capital, Bamako, with plumes of smoke also seen billowing into the air.
Stunned faces of those who were captured could be seen through the windows of buses that were ferrying them to safety after they had been rescued.
Mali’s Security Minister, Salif Traore, said: ‘It is a jihadist attack. Malian special forces intervened and about 20 hostages have been released.
‘Unfortunately for the moment there are two dead, including a Franco-Gabonese.’
Malian troops and soldiers from France’s Bakhane regional counter-terrorist force surrounded the site, a resort boasting accommodation in hut-style rooms, as well as restaurants and swimming pools.
Security forces battled the gunmen at the site, with nearby residents reporting hearing shots while smoke billowed into the air, with at least one building ablaze.
Mr Traore added the second body was being identified, saying: “Operations are ongoing. We are searching room by room.”
There was no immediate information on the nationality of the hostages released.
Officials have said it is believed that the attack was carried out by jihadists, and that at least two people had been killed.
‘Security forces are in place. Campement Kangaba is blocked off and an operation is under way,’ Security Ministry spokesman Baba Cisse said.
‘The situation is under control.’
Residents spoke of the terrifying scenes as the usually idyllic sight turned to carnage.
One, Modibo Diarra, said: ‘I heard gunfire coming from the camp and I saw people running out of the tourist site.
‘I learned that it was a terrorist attack.’
Malian soldiers succeeded in entering the site, according to Commandant Modibo Traore, according to a spokesman for the Malian special forces.
‘The operation is ongoing and we estimate that there are between three and four assailants,’ he said.
Security has gradually worsened in Mali since French forces pushed back allied Islamist and Tuareg rebel fighters in 2013 from swathes of the north they had occupied the previous year.
French troops and a 10,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force have battled to stabilise the former French colony and strikes on Malian and Western targets have spread further south and far beyond traditional militant strongholds.
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.
The attack was claimed by the North African terrorist affiliate ‘Al-Qaeda 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.
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.
In 2012 Mali’s north fell under the control of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda who hijacked an ethnic Tuareg-led rebel uprising, though the Islamists were largely ousted by a French-led military operation in January 2013.
But jihadists have mounted numerous attacks on civilians and the army, as well as on French and UN forces still stationed there.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all but essential travel to Bamako. For parts of Mali north of Bamako they advise against all travel.
Sunday’s attack is the latest in a series of high-profile assaults in north and 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 UN has a 12,000-strong force known as MINUSMA in Mali, which began operations in 2013.
It has been targeted constantly by jihadists, with dozens of peacekeepers killed.
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 jihadist threat across their porous borders. – Mailonline
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