Gunmen, heavily armed, busted into a Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, the capital of the West African nation of Mali, Friday shouting “Allahu akbar.” They took the lives of at least 21 people and trapped dozens in the building for hours, officials said.
The shooters blew past the hotel’s security in the early morning, confusing guards with fake diplomatic license plates, The New York Times reported. Then, they entered the lobby and fired their guns.
“They started firing everywhere,” said one of the hotel’s receptionists who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “They were shouting, ‘Allahu akbar.’ They cut someone’s throat, a white man.”
“I hid in my office,” he said. “I saw four of them, armed to the teeth.”
A senior United Nations official said that up to 27 people had been killed, with bodies spread throughout the building. According to CNN, a spokesman for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, Olivier Salgado, said that 21 people were killed. At least six were hospitalized, Mali Health Minister Marie Madeleine Togo said to broadcaster ORTM.
At least one of the deceased was an American, according to two senior American officials. A Belgian citizen was also fatally wounded in the attack.
The nationalities of all other victims was not immediately clear. There were several diplomats in town at the hotel for a meeting to monitor peace efforts.
Gen. Didier Dacko of the Malian Army said that 100 people were held hostage at the start of the attack. Then, soldiers went inside to look “for the terrorists.”
The attack seemed to have come to a conclusion in the late afternoon, and no more hostages were being held, according to Mali’s minister of interior security Col. Salif Traore. The White House said in a statement that they could “confirm that the attack has ended.”
Other officials and witnesses claimed that two of the assailants were killed.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack on the hotel in Mali. Al Jazeera reported that it had received a message claiming a local militant group called Al Mourabitoun was responsible in conjunction with Al Qaeda’s regional affiliate. CNN confirmed the news via the news agency Al Akhbar.
However, France’s defense minister stated that Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a Qaeda member who claimed responsibility for the Algerian gas plant siege in 2013 that left dozens of hostages dead, was “likely behind” the siege in Mali, but the minister said that “we are not completely certain of it.”
Qaeda supporters unfortunately responded to Friday’s attack with praise. One said that the Islamic State “should learn a think or two” from their rival, NY Times reported.
This is not the first attack Mali has endured this year. They’ve struggled with Islamist extremism and insurrection for a long time, and they’ve experienced smaller attacks on another hotel and a restaurant in 2015.
“We don’t want to scare our people, but we have already said that Mali will have to get used to situations like this,” President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali said to France 24. “We must all remain humble. No one, nowhere, is safe given the danger of terrorism.”
This siege in the former French colony came just one week after terrorists killed 129 people during attacks in Paris. It seems like a new attack is happening every other day or week. May we remain peaceful and #PrayForTheWorld.