Gunmen attack EU military training base in Mali capital
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Unidentified gunmen attacked a hotel in Mali's capital Bamako on Monday that had been converted into a base for a European Union military training mission in the West African nation.
European military sources said that there were no casualties among the staff of the base, and that one of the attackers had been killed. Three of the four attackers had fled the scene, according to FRANCE 24’s sister radio station Radio France Internationale (RFI).
Mali’s interior ministry said that two suspects had been arrested.
"The attackers tried to force through the entry and the guards posed in front of the entrance opened fire. One attacker was killed. The gunfire continued for several minutes," said one witness near the Nord-Sud hotel.
Witness Sekou Tamboura was also near the hotel when the shooting erupted.
“We were next to the Hamdallaye Cemetery when the first shot rang out, then there was a second and a third. There were a few seconds of pause, then it kicked off and did not stop. It was every man for himself,” Tamboura said.
The mission confirmed the attack on its official Twitter feed. “EUTM-MALI HQ has been attacked. No EUTM-Mali personnel has been hurt ... during the attack,” it said.
Azalaï Hotels, which runs the Nord-Sud Hotel, later posted on Twitter that the assailants had been repelled and the building had been secured.
“One of the assailants was killed. We are examining the sack he was carrying, which could contain explosives,” Interior Security Minister Colonel Salif Traoré said on state television. “Two suspects were arrested and are being interrogated.”
He added that security forces were carrying out operations around the EU headquarters and seeking to secure another building nearby.
A photo taken of the dead gunman seen by Reuters showed a man who appeared to be in his 20s, possibly from northern Mali, dressed stylishly in jeans, a brown shirt and Nike trainers, lying on his back in a pool of blood beside a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
A Reuters reporter at the scene of the attack said security forces, including Malian army special forces, had cordoned off the area while a cleanup operation was carried out.
Vehicles from Mali’s United Nations peacekeeping mission were also visible.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
EUTM-MALI HQ has been attacked. No EUTM-Mali personnel has been hurt or injured during the attack. EUTM-Mali is at the securing the area.— eutmmali (@eutmmali1) March 21, 2016
Monday’s assault on the Nord-Sud hotel follows last November's deadly assault on the luxury Radisson Blu hotel, which left 22 people dead, the country’s worst terror attack in years.
Two Islamist militant groups claimed that assault, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The group also targeted a beach resort town in Ivory Coast
earlier this month, killing 19 people.
Mali has been plunged into insecurity following a 2012 coup, which cleared the way for a jihadist takeover of northern Mali. The area, an expanse of desert the size of Texas, was controlled by a dangerous mix of Islamist and Tuareg separatist groups until a French military operation launched in January 2013 succeeded in seizing control of northern Mali.
But the impoverished West African nation has been hit by a number of attacks in recent months.
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 defence 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 UN mission headquarters in Bamako.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)