20, 2015 -
Barely a week after the Paris attacks, Al-Quaeda-linked
gunmen target a hotel in Mali, at least 20 dead. State
of emergency declared as well as three days of national
mourning. Three people sought.
The morning of Friday November 20 would
have been like any other day in the Malian capital
Bamako as residents try as best as they could to make
their lives worth living in a country often wracked by
violence as various groups fight for one imagined prize
or the other. Caught in the middle are the unarmed
civilians - men, women and children whose only crime, it
would seem was to be and believe in a country
called Mali. All this took a different dimension in a
violent twist that was as brutal as it was unexpected.
CNN, the US-based
news organisation reported the unfolding violence that
took many by surprise even as they contemplated and
worried about the attacks in Paris.
"Heavily armed gunmen on Friday fired
indiscriminately at guests at a hotel hosting diplomats
and others in Mali's capital, the maître d' told CNN. At
least 21 people were killed in the attack in which an al
Qaeda-affiliated group is taking partial responsibility.
"These people started shooting. They
were shooting at everybody without asking a single
question. They were shooting at anything that moved,"
Tamba Couye said of the attack at the Radisson Blu Hotel
in Bamako. One man did yell "Allahu akbar," said Couye,
who was working in the restaurant where breakfast was
underway. The attackers sounded like they were from
northern Mali, he told "Erin Burnett OutFront."
Couye said an attacker chased him from
the hotel but he came back later to help because his
instincts told him he needed to do so to save lives.
Dozens of people were trapped in the building for hours,
officials in the West African nation said, before Malian
and U.N. security forces launched a counterattack and
rushed guests away.
Olivier Salgado, a spokesman for the
United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, put the
death toll at 21. At least six people injured in the
attack have been hospitalized, Health Minister Marie
Madeleine Togo told state broadcaster ORTM.
Al Mourabitoun, an Islamist militant
group, claimed it was jointly responsible for the
attack, according to Mauritanian news agency Al Akhbar.
The group announced it carried out the attack with al
Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the news agency
reported. Al Mourabitoun said the attack was carried out
in retaliation for government aggression in northern
Mali, Al Akhbar reported.
The group also demanded the release of
prisoners in France. Algerian jihadist and the leader of
the group, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, is "probably" behind the
attack, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said
in an interview on France's TF1, but the French are not
Belmokhtar was the target of a June
U.S. airstrike in Libya. Libyan officials said he had
been killed but U.S. officials never confirmed his death
Among the many international news
organisations watching events unfold a week after the
Paris attack was
the BBC -
"Among those killed were three Chinese
business executives, and China's President Xi Jinping
has called the attack "cruel and savage", Reuters news
agency reports. A US national was also killed, and US
President Barack Obama said the attack was yet another
reminder that the "scourge of terrorism" threatened many
UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
said three Britons in the hotel were safe. President
Keita said Mali would "do everything to eradicate
terrorism" in the country. A 10-day state of emergency
has been announced in Mali following an attack on a
hotel by suspected Islamist militants in the capital,
Bamako, in which gunmen killed 19 people. President
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has also declared three days of
mourning. Announcing the death toll, the president said
two militants had also been killed. Al-Qaeda in the
Islamic Maghreb and its affiliate, al-Murabitoun, said
they carried out the attack."
The Washington Post
adds - "Authorities drew no direct links to last week’s
terrorist attacks in Paris. But Mali — home to the
ancient city of Timbuktu — has been at the center of a
French-backed effort to drive back Islamist rebels who
once controlled large portions of the country.
Security had been reinforced in Bamako
— specifically around locations popular with foreigners,
including the Radisson — after the Paris attacks, Traore
said. He added that the attackers entered the hotel
through a side entrance, “which makes us believe that
they were familiar with the hotel.”
Foreigners are often targeted in Mali.
Yet militants had never seized a target as prominent as
the 190-room Radisson Blu, where foreign business people
and diplomats are known to stay and dine. Earlier this
month — before the rampage in Paris — the leader of
Ansar Dine, one of Mali’s main Islamist groups, released
a statement encouraging attacks that would “push away
the aggression of the French Crusader assailant” in the
former French colony, which stretches from tropical West
Africa to desert regions bordering Algeria.
A contingent of French troops is stationed in Mali, and
President François Hollande on Thursday had praised the
campaign against the Islamist insurgents. “France is
leading this war with its armed forces, its soldiers,
its courage,” he said. “It must carry out this war with
its allies, its partners giving us all the means
available, as we did in Mali, as we are going to
continue in Iraq, as we will continue in Syria.”
Two months ago, more than a dozen
people — including five U.N. contractors — were killed
in a 24-hour hostage siege at a hotel in Sevare in
central Mali. Responsibility for that attack was claimed
by al-Mourabitoun, led by Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
Belmokhtar, an infamous one-eyed militant, had also
orchestrated the bloody seizure of an Algerian gas
facility in 2013 in which at least 100 workers were held
hostage and dozens were killed.
US State Department,
on behalf of the Obama administration condemned Friday's
attack, the taking of hostages and the murder of unarmed
civilians. Reports say among the dead in Mali is a US
citizen - Anita Ashok Datar.
The Times of India
has this - "Anita Ashok Datar, an American aid worker of
Indian-origin was among the 27 victims of the terrorist
massacre in Bamako, Mali, the Obama administration
confirmed on Friday, even as world powers closed ranks
at the United Nations to defeat the terrorist group
Pressed by the French in the aftermath
of the Paris carnage, they voted to redouble and
coordinate their efforts to prevent further terrorist
horrors by the group and eradicate its safe havens
straddling parts of Iraq and Syria.
Anita Datar's mother is from Mumbai,
dad from Pune. But it did not matter for Datar, 41, and
others who were mowed down in the attack on the Radisson
Blu Hotel in distant Mali, believed to have been
undertaken by Al-Mourabitoun, which is split between
affiliation to al-Qaida and ISIS. If anything, the
speedy ISIS-specific UN resolution, in the absence of a
broader protocol on terrorism covering all groups,
revealed the weight of big powers where it concerned
incidents affecting them.
Datar, a senior manager at Palladium,
an international development firm with offices in
Washington, was in Bamako as part of her 18-year beat in
global health and international development that began
with a stint in the US Peace Corps in Senegal in the
Her work took her to countries such as
Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Philippines, South Sudan,
Tanzania, Zambia, Guatemala, and Guyana, Bangladesh, and
even her ancestral India, many of them afflicted with
poverty, violence - and terrorism.
Aid worker Anita Datar 'represented
the best of America's generous spirit', says Hillary
Clinton. "Everything she did in her life she did to help
others - as a mother, public health expert, daughter,
sister and friend. And while we are angry and saddened
that she has been killed, we know that she would want to
promote education and healthcare to prevent violence and
poverty at home and abroad, not intolerance," her family
said in a statement.
"We are devastated that Anita is gone
- it's unbelievable to us that she has been killed in
this senseless act of violence and terrorism. She was
one of the kindest and most generous people we know. She
loved her family and her work tremendously," they said,
seeking privacy at this moment of grief.