Mali gunmen ‘targeted Air France crew’

November 23, 2015 10:42 am

 In
this TV image taken from Mali TV ORTM, a security officer gives
instructions to other security forces inside the Radisson Blu Hotel.
Photo / AP

Malian investigators have stepped up the hunt for suspects wanted
over the jihadist siege at a luxury hotel that left 19 people dead in
the capital Bamako.
According to The Telegraph, security
guards who witnessed the attack claim the terrorists behind Friday’s
assault were looking for Air France crew who were staying at the
Radisson hotel.
Kasim Haidara was on duty when the gunmen stormed the hotel. He told The Telegraph the terrorists confronted one of his colleagues, Moussa Tiema-Konate, who was on the fifth floor at the time.
They demanded to know which floor the Air France staff were on.
Tiema-Konate deliberately told them the wrong floor, which they later realised and killed him for.
Air
France has confirmed 12 crew were safely evacuated from the hotel, but
has not commented on whether its staff were deliberately targeted.

Two days after the attack on the Radisson Blu hotel, claimed
by the Al-Mourabitoun group, an al-Qaeda affiliate led by notorious
one-eyed Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the authorities were
tight-lipped about the direction of the inquiry.
“We are following several lines, but we won’t be making a statement,” a police source said.

In this TV image taken from Mali TV ORTM, security forces help hostages to safety, inside the Radisson Blu Hotel. Photo / AP
In this TV image taken from Mali TV ORTM, security forces help hostages to safety, inside the Radisson Blu Hotel. Photo / AP
Another informed source spoke of “three or four
accomplices” believed to have aided the “foreign” gunmen who attacked
the hotel frequented by businessmen, diplomats and other expatriates.
“Everything points to two foreigners,” the source said.
Pope
Francis yesterday offered his condolences to the Malian people, in the
form of a telegram from the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Pietro
Parolin, to the Archbishop of Bamako, Jean Zerbo.
The Pope, who
travels to this week, said he was “appalled by this senseless
violence” and hoped for “the conversion of hearts and the gift of
peace”, in the troubled country.
Security remained high at the major hotels in Bamako. It was tighter than usual at public buildings and banks.
On
Saturday, a security source said the authorities were “actively
pursuing” at least three people over the attack in the former French
colony.
Gunmen went on the rampage in the hotel from the early
morning on Friday, shooting in the corridors and taking 170 guests and
staff hostage.
The assault, which ended when Malian and
international troops stormed the building, left 19 people dead as well
as two attackers, Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has said.
The
victims included six Russians, three Chinese, two Belgians, an
American, an Israeli, a Senegalese and a member of the Malian special
forces.
Mali will begin three days of mourning from today.
The
attack appears to have had an immediate effect on the country’s tourism
industry with one major hotel saying it had received numerous
cancellations, and that restaurant and business centre reservations were
down.
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.
France
has more than 1000 troops in its former colony, a key battleground of
the Barkhane counter-terror mission spanning five countries in Africa’s
restive Sahel region.

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