Al-Qaida this time…….
Heavily armed Islamic extremists seized dozens of hostages Friday at a Radisson hotel, but Malian troops, backed by U.S. and French special forces, swarmed in to retake the building and free many of the terrified captives. At least 20 people were killed along with two gunmen during the more than seven-hour siege, a Malian military commander said.
An extremist group led by former al-Qaida commander Moktar Belmoktar claimed responsibility for the attack in the former French colony, and many in France saw it as a new assault on their country’s interests a week after the Paris attacks.
While French President Francois Hollande did not link the violence at the Radisson Blu hotel with last week’s bloodshed in Paris, he declared that France would stand by the West African country.
“Once again, terrorists want to make their barbaric presence felt everywhere, where they can kill, where they can massacre. So we should once again show our solidarity with our ally, Mali,” he said.
Gunfire continued throughout the day at the hotel, which is popular with airline crews and other foreigners doing business in the capital of Bamako, but the shooting had stopped after dark.
Officials would not confirm that the entire complex had been secured by nightfall, although the only activity was firefighters carrying bodies to waiting ambulances.
Army Cmdr. Modibo Nama Traore said late Friday night that 20 people had been killed, including an official with Mali’s gendarmerie. In addition, he said five people were injured including two police officers.
Though Traore had earlier said as many as 10 attackers were involved, he said Friday night that there may have been only two gunmen, both of whom were killed. A police officer at the hotel displayed photos of the two dead gunmen, their bodies riddled with bullets.
The siege began when assailants shouting “God is great!” in Arabic burst into the complex and opened fire on the hotel guards, Traore said earlier on Friday. An employee who identified himself as Tamba Diarra said by phone amid the attack that the militants used grenades.
About 170 guests and employees were initially taken hostage, but some apparently escaped or hid in the sprawling, cream-and-pink hotel that has 190 rooms and a spa, outdoor pool and ballroom. They included visitors from France, Belgium, Germany, China, India, Canada, Ivory Coast and Turkey.
“It was more like a real terrorist attack,” said U.N. Mission spokesman Olivier Salgado. “The intention was clearly to kill, not to necessarily have people being hostage.”
Traore said 126 people had been escorted to safety, and that at least one guest reported the attackers instructed him to recite verses from the Quran as proof of his Muslim faith before he was allowed to leave.