At least two people are dead after an attack at a popular tourist resort near Mali’s capital city, Bamako, by suspected jihadi terrorists Sunday. Local residents reported hearing shots fired as smoke rose above the resort. One of the two deceased was identified as a French national by a spokesperson for Mali’s security ministry. The nationality of the other person killed is not known at the time of this writing.
“Security forces are in place” said Baba Cisse, spokesperson for the security ministry. “Campement Kangaba is blocked off and an operation is under way. The situation is under control.”
Malian troops and soldiers from the French counter-terrorism force Barkhane responded to the situation at Le Campement in Dougourakoro, just southeast of Bamako. Hostages were taken by the attackers, though at least 32 of the hostages have been released so far.
Last week the US Embassy in Mali warned of the “increased threat of attacks” in the country, which has been battling against Islamic extremists since 2013, when France intervened to oust groups that had taken control of major towns in the north the year before. Among the places described in the US Embassy’s warning as places to avoid were “Western diplomatic missions, places of worship, and other locations in Bamako where Westerners frequent,” according to the statement on the Embassy’s website.
Since the French pushback of rebel fighters and Islamic extremists in the north in 2013, Mali’s security has slowly but steadily worsened. Bamako has frequently has been the site of these attacks, particularly places where wealthy Malians and Westerners go to enjoy pools, cocktails, and other leisure activities. In another hotel attack in November 2015, gunmen took staff and guests hostage at the Radisson Blu in Bamako, a siege which resulted in the deaths of 20 people. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the North African arm of Al-Qaeda, took responsibility for that attack.
Since the attack at the Radisson Blu, Mali has been in a state of emergency that has been extended several times. The most recent extension was in April, when the state of emergency was given another six months. The United Nations began a peacekeeping operation in Mali in 2013, called MINUSMA, with a force that is around 12,000 soldiers strong. The force has been a constant target for attacks by armed fighters, and many peacekeepers have lost their lives.
In his first foreign trip after being elected, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Mali and spoke with Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and soldiers of the Barkhane forces. Macron reconfirmed his country’s commitment to the former French colony, giving reassurance that his government would remain “uncompromising” in the fight against terrorism and jihadi extremists around Bamako and all throughout Mali.
[Featured Image by Harouna Traore/AP Images]