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Mali in mourning after at least 27 killed in hotel attack


Bamako : Mali today began three days of national mourning and declared a state of emergency after a nine-hour siege by jihadist gunmen at a top hotel in the capital left at least 27 people dead.

The assault, claimed by Al-Qaeda affiliate the Al-Murabitoun group led by notorious one-eyed Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, ended after Malian and international troops stormed the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako.

The attack came as fears are mounting about terrorist threats a week after devastating attacks in Paris that killed 130 people claimed by the Islamic State group, which also said it had downed a Russian passenger jet in Egypt weeks before.

The Malian government declared a 10-day nationwide state of emergency from midnight yesterday over the assault and called three days of mourning for the victims, who included three Chinese, an American and a Belgian.

Malian security sources said 27 out of more than 100 people taken hostage in the raid had died, while at least three “terrorists” were killed or blew themselves up.

US President Barack Obama today condemned the “appalling” attack, adding that “this barbarity only stiffens our resolve to meet this challenge” of extremist violence.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei expressed condolences for the victims and their families, adding: “China expresses indignation and strongly condemns this atrocity.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the “horrific terrorist attack,” suggesting the violence was aimed at destroying peace efforts in the country.

Mali has been torn apart by unrest since the north fell under the control of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in 2012.

The Islamists were largely ousted by a French-led military
operation launched the following year, but large swathes of Mali remain lawless and prone to attacks.

The assault began around 0700 GMT yesterday, when gunmen pulled up at the hotel at same time as a car with diplomatic plates and starting shooting their way inside, taking guests and staff hostage.

Malian television broadcast chaotic scenes from inside the building as police and other security personnel ushered bewildered guests along corridors to safety.

Special forces — including Malian, French and two US soldiers who also happened to be in the area — staged a dramatic floor-by-floor rescue, ending the siege after about nine hours.

“The hostage-taking is over. We are in the process of securing the hotel,” a Malian military source said as civil protection officers removed the victims in orange body bags.

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