AFRICA: Mali Hotel Attacked
Gunmen Seize Hotel.
A hotel in the northwest African nation of Mali is under siege today after gunmen stormed the building in Mali’s capital city, killing at least three people and taking more than 100 hostages.
While many hotel guests and workers have been evacuated from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali’s capital, 138 guests and hotel staff are believed trapped inside, according to the BBC.
The hotel has been surrounded by Malian and French troops. A U.S. defense official in Washington said about 25 U.S. military personnel were in Bamako at the time of the incident, and were helping to move civilians to safety, Reuters reported.
France said it was dispatching 50 elite counter-terrorism officers to Bamako immediately. Paris has troops in Mali helping to fight Islamists, but they are based in the desert city of Gao, 950 kilometers away, according to Reuters.
According to news reports, the gunmen arrived at the hotel in a truck bearing diplomatic license plates and started shooting when a guard tried to check their identification.
Mali’s president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was attending a regional conference in neighboring Chad and has cut short his trip and is reported heading back to his country.
The gunmen’s motivation and affiliation is unknown although some people who escaped the hotel said some of the gunmen shouted “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great.”
Mali, a former French colony, has ben wracked by a military coup and an uprising by separatist Tuareg tribesmen since 2012. The coup was sparked by young officers’ frustration with the government’s inept handling of the Tuareg rebellion in the country’s northern deserts. The ensuing chaos prompted the Tuaregs to sweep over more than half the country, including the ancient city of Timbuktu. Radical Islamists linked to al Qaeda hijacked the rebellion, turning it into a Muslim extremist campaign that imposed harsh sharia law and destroyed shrines and tombs deemed idolatrous.
France launched a military intervention in early 2013 at the request of the Bamako government. Together with troops from neighboring African nations, they rolled the rebels back and have been providing security — along with U.N. peacekeepers, now numbering 12,000, ever since.
French, Turkish, Chinese and Indian nationals were among the guests at the hotel, which is popular with United Nations personnel, businessmen and airline flight crews.
Northern Mali remains insecure and militant attacks have extended farther south this year, including the capital. In March masked gunmen shot up a restaurant in Bamako that is popular with foreigners, killing five people, according to the Associated Press.
About 1,000 French troops remain in the country. The Netherlands also has troops working with the UN mission in Mali. According to the Dutch defense ministry, some 450 Dutch military personnel are taking part in the mission along with four Apache and three Chinook helicopters. Most of the Dutch force is based in Gao, but there are a few officers at the U.N. mission headquarters in Bamako, AP reported.
Entry filed under: Africa, Counter Insurgency, Counter Terrorism, National Security and Defense, News Developments. Tags: Africa, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Counter Insurgency, counter terrorism, French Defense Forces, Mali, Special Operations, Topics.