Five dead in Mali capital shooting

Published: Sunday 8th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Five people, including a French person and a Belgian national, were killed after a masked gunman sprayed bullets in a restaurant popular with foreigners in Mali’s capital.

Al Mourabitoun, or the Sentinels, a northern Mali jihadist group allied with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the Mauritanian news website Al-Akhbar. The site often receives messages from Malian extremists.

Nine people were wounded including two experts at the UN mission, said the UN stabilisation mission in Mali. The two are Swiss soldiers and are being flown to Senegal for treatment, according to the Swiss defence ministry.

Witness Ibrahim Coulibaly said: “I saw a masked person with a great weapon like a machine gun go up the stairs to the bar and at first I thought it was a joke, but a few second later, I heard a first shot.

“People started shouting and then came a burst of gunfire. It was then that I realised it was serious. I hid.”

“Then the hooded man came down the stairs, past the bar, and he saw the Belgian citizen who was getting into his car and he shot him.

“And then the attacker got in a car and left. He did not talk to anyone, he said nothing.”

Another witness, Hamadou Dolo, gave a different account, saying he saw two gunmen run out of the establishment and jump into a car driven by an accomplice.

Mali’s president and prime minister visited the scene and called it “a criminal and terrorist act”.

A government statement said an investigation has been opened and pledged to bring the perpetrators to book.

France and Belgium condemned the attack at La Terrasse, the restaurant and bar in Bamako, and their foreign ministers confirmed the deaths of their nationals.

Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders denounced a “cowardly act of terror”.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said the Frenchman killed was 31 years old, and added “everything must be done to find those responsible for this crime”.

The Belgian killed was a security officer for the European Union, said EU president Donald Tusk.

“The European Union will not be intimidated by terrorism, at home or abroad,” said Tusk.

“We will remain steadfast in support of Mali and its people.”

US secretary of state John Kerry, currently visiting France, called the attack an act of cowardice. “In the end, that only strengthens our resolve to fight terrorism in all of its forms wherever it exists.”

Mr Kerry said such acts don’t intimidate but have the “exact opposite effect”.

La Terrasse in Bamako’s Hippodrome, area where many expatriates live, is a restaurant, bar and nightclub popular on a Friday night for salsa dancing.

French president Francois Hollande’s office said security had immediately been tightened around French facilities.

A statement from his office said the French embassy has set up a crisis cell to help expatriates in Bamako.

Mr Hollande spoke with Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to show his support on Saturday.

Mr Hollande and the Malian president “decided on common measures to strengthen security in Mali”.

The UN Security Council “condemned in the strongest terms” the terrorist attack in Bamako and called on the government of Mali “to swiftly investigate this attack and bring the perpetrators to justice”.

French forces led a military operation in early 2013 that largely expelled al-Qaida-linked extremists from a vast area they had controlled in north-eastern Mali.

The military operation in that region continues, and sporadic combat and clashes take place there. However, violence has been rare in Bamako despite the continued upheaval in the north.

Published: Sunday 8th March 2015 by The News Editor

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