A terrorist attack that claimed 27 lives at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, was orchestrated and committed by Al-Mourabitoun “in coordination with [the] Imarat al-Sahra group and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).” Mali, helped with the United Nations and France, has been fiercely battling terrorists and today’s attack is a grim reminder that the fight is far from over.
Attackers approached the hotel in diplomatic-plated vehicles, killing security guards and entered the Radisson firing their AK-47 rifles. The Radisson said that as many as 170 people was in the vicinity of the hotel when the AK-47s started firing. However, the attackers were freed if they were able to recite verses from the Holy Koran. The gunmen took more than 100 hostages at the beginning of the attacks, before Malian soldiers stormed the building looking for terrorists, according to Gen. Didier Dacko of the Malian Army.
Quickly, French and American—most likely located at the nearby U.S. Embassy—special operations troops joined their Malian counterparts to fight their way throughout the hotel, killing at least two gunmen. The incident was over by the early evening after several hours chasing gunmen and at least 30 people were able to escape during the siege.
According to Olivier Salgado, spokesman for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, 21 people were killed and at least six were wounded in the attack. However, a UN source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that more than 27 were killed. The six wounded were hospitalized, Mali Health Minister Marie Madeleine Togo told state broadcaster ORTM.
The attack, most likely planned, came as the hotel hosted a delegation of diplomats working on a peace process for Mali. These include foreign nationals from Algeria, Belgium, Germany, India, Spain, Canada, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Russia, Senegal, the US, and Turkey. Mali, a former French colony, has been extensively battling terrorists with the help of France and the United Nations.
Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, the Malian President, saluted its security forces for its professionalism and thanked friendly countries for their assistance during the Radisson siege.
— Presidence Mali (@PresidenceMali) November 20, 2015
The Al-Mourabitoun group was formed in August 2013 and pledged alliance to the Islamic State (IS) during the same year. Yet, 24 hours later, the group renounced its pledge. However, in May 2015, a recording stated that Al-Mourabitoun once again pledged allegiance to IS.
“The Al-Murabitoun movement pledges its allegiance to the caliph of Muslims Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (IS leader), thereby banishing divisions and dissent within the (Muslim community),” according to a recording made by the group.
The pledge was made only two months after a similar move by Boko Haram, a jihadist group operating in the Lake Chad area, swore allegiance to IS. Last week, Chad imposed state of emergency to counter Boko Haram’s operation in the region and has coordinated with Nigeria and the United Nations to destroy the organization.
That said, the pledged made by Al-Mourabitoun is still unclear as no solid confirmation can be established due to the unfamiliar voice in the recording.
Al-Mourabitoun is under the Salafist jihadism ideology. Its leader, Mokthar Belmokhtar is a veteran jihadist who was a military commander with AQIM. Belmokhtar became famous after he planned and executed an attack on an Algerian gas plant in 2013, killing 39 workers. Six of them were British.
Al-Mourabitoun operates in Mali, Niger and Libya and has been actively fighting in Northern Mali, near the towns of Tessalit and Ansongo.
The 27 killed civilians is a grim reminder of the instability and insecurity created by terrorist organizations across the globe. Africa, who has seen more than its share of terrorist attacks, remains one of the most targeted region for terrorist attacks and, unless the world community unites to offer more military and humanitarian assistance to African countries, will continue to be under constant fear of where the next attack will occur.