BAMAKO — Suspected jihadists crying "Allahu Akbar" stormed a tourist resort popular with foreigners on the edge of the Malian capital Bamako on Sunday, briefly seizing more than 30 hostages and leaving at least two people dead.
The assault on the Kangaba Le Campement resort comes after a similar strike less than two years ago on a luxury hotel in Bamako, which lies in the south of the troubled country.
Security forces who battled the gunmen at the site were continuing on Sunday evening to search for the assailants who fled.
Nearby residents had first reported the attack after hearing shots while smoke billowed into the air, with at least one building ablaze.
"It is a jihadist attack. Malian special forces intervened," Security Minister Salif Traore said. They were backed up by UN soldiers and troops from a French counter-terrorism force.
"Unfortunately for the moment there are two dead, including a Franco-Gabonese," he said, adding that the second body was being identified.
At least "32 hostages" were freed, Mali’s army said in a statement, adding that one of the attackers was wounded and gave up his weapon. He also left behind "bottles containing some explosive substances", the security ministry said.
At least 14 people, both Malians and foreigners, were injured, according to the ministry.
A witness interviewed on local television ORTM said he saw a man arrive on a motorcycle who "started shooting at the crowd" followed by "two or three people" who came in another vehicle.
The landlocked west African country has been fighting a jihadist insurgency for several years, with Islamist fighters roaming the north and centre of Mali.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who is scheduled to visit Bamako on July 2 for a meeting with five Sahel countries, "is following the situation very closely," the presidency said on Sunday.
’Increased threat of attacks’
Several people rescued at Kangaba said assailants had shouted "Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest)", although no group has yet claimed responsibility.
The US embassy in Bamako had warned earlier this month "of a possible increased threat of attacks against Western diplomatic missions, places of worship, and other locations in Bamako where Westerners frequent".
At a France-Africa summit in Bamako in January, the owner of Kangaba, Herve Depardieu, had complained about the "alarming security information" given by foreign consulates "which seriously disturb our love of life and our freedoms".
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.
That attack was claimed by al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). — AFP