On Monday evening, in what appears to be ever increasing attacks on western interests in the region, gunmen launched an attack on a hotel that had been converted into the headquarters of the European Union military training base in Bamako, the capital of Mali.
The attack began at approximately 6:30 p.m. local time (18:30 GMT) when gunmen apparently tried to force their way into the Nord-Sud hotel when security forces at the front of the post began to open fire. The hotel had been the headquarters of the mission where the European Union had deployed over 600 of their personnel to train the security forces in Mali. A gunfight broke out when the group of intruders returned gun fire to the armed security forces. No members of the EU were killed during the scuffle, but at least one of the attackers was killed.
Mali and neighboring West African countries have begun to experience more and more attacks from Islamist militants, some of whom are affiliated with al Qaeda, in recent months. After this attack, a man who Reuters said appeared to be dressed “stylishly” in a pair of jeans, a brown shirt, and Nike trainers lay in a pool of his own blood next to the Kalashnikov rifle that was presumably his weapon during the attack. Two other suspects were arrested and are being interrogated.
Thus far, no group has claimed responsibility for the armed attack.
Sgt. Baba Dembele from the anti-terrorism unit in Bamako, Mali, told the press that there had indeed been an attack at the Hotel Nord-Sud where the EU mission is headquartered. Witnesses who had heard the gunshot all reported that there had been a significant amount of gunshots fired. Sekou Tamboura said he was nearby when the attack began.
“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.”
Later on, the EU mission tweeted from their account about the attack and advised that none of their personnel had been shot and their forces were securing the area. The EU special forces, members of the Malian army, the national police, and other security forces later cordoned off the area so that a clean-up operation could be carried out. Armed personnel from various EU member states make up the numbers for the military mission to train Mali’s army to take on the rebels.
French security forces have been aiding Mali in its fight against the insurgency by Islamist militants in the north of the country. Deployment of the EU forces is part of the effort to stabilize Mali, which has seen major unrest since Islamist militants, many of whom have links to al Qaeda, seized its desert north back in 2012. France intervened a year later and drove the Islamists back due to fear that the lawlessness in that zone could make it an ideal base to plan targeted attacks in Europe.
This week marks the fourth anniversary of the coup that brought chaos to Mali when the democratically elected president was overthrown and extremists in the northern half of Mali took advantage. They began implementing extremely strict interpretations of Islamic law after seizing the major towns in the region. Amputations and public whippings were only ended when the French-led military arrived.
The Washington Post informed us in their report that this attack on the EU in Mali comes only four months after the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital was attacked by jihadis and 20 people were killed. That attack was claimed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Mourabitoun in what was allegedly their first joint attack since al-Mourabitoun joined the North African branch of al-Qaeda in 2015.
Over the past year, violence has been mounting as jihadis have carried out waves of attack against the U.N. peacekeepers trying to help in the stabilization of the country.
In January, AQIM extremists attacked a cafe near a hotel in Burkina Faso’s capital that was popular with foreigners; at least 30 people were killed. It was also just last week that they took responsibility of assaulting a beach in Ivory Coast that left 19 dead; the three attackers were identified as members of al-Mourabitoun and Sahara units.
[Photo Courtesy of Baba Ahmed/AP Images]