A Sahara-based group has reportedly claimed responsibility for a rare attack in Mali’s capital that killed five people.
The attack early on Saturday morning on La Terrasse, a popular restaurant with expatriates in Bamako, left a French citizen, a Belgian security officer and three Malians dead and nine others wounded, a senior Malian security official told the Reuters news agency.
“There were two individuals who were armed and hooded. One burst into the La Terrasse restaurant and opened fire on people. Then he got into a vehicle in which the other was waiting,” senior police officer Falaye Kanté said.
“As they fled down a neighbouring street, they shot a Belgian man who was in front of his house. He’s dead. Not far away they came across a police vehicle and threw a grenade, killing the driver,” he said.
Mali’s desert north, where French forces took territory from rebels, is plagued by frequent attacks. But this is the first such attack for years in Bamako, located in the south, raising fears the capital will become targeted more often.
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta visited the restaurant after the attack, and his government pledged to bring the attackers to justice.
In Paris, French President Francois Hollande’s office said the French leader had spoken with Keita and that they had agreed on new “common measures” to reinforce security in Mali.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the Belgian victim was a security officer at the European Union’s delegation in Bamako.
Two international experts with the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) were among the wounded, according to initial reports, said Mongi Hamdi, UN special envoy for the peacekeeping mission to Mali (MINUSMA).
Preliminary peace proposal
Mauritanian news website Al-Akhbar posted an audio recording on social media of a man it said was a spokesman for al-Mourabitoun, an armed group.
“We in the al-Mourabitoun announce our responsibility for the latest operations in Bamako, which were carried out by the brave knights of the Mourabitoun to avenge the Prophet Mohammed against the infidel West, which ridiculed our prophet, and to avenge the killing of our brother Ahmed al Tilemsi,” the man said in the audio recording.
In January 2013, France launched a UN-backed attack in its former colony to force the group from towns in northern Mali taken in 2012.
In the recording, al-Mourabitoun also claimed responsibility for blowing up some 25 UN vehicles and killing three peacekeepers.
Mali’s government signed a preliminary peace proposal last Sunday meant to end fighting with northern separatists, but the Tuareg-led rebels demanded more time before agreeing to any accord.