Gunmen attack EU military training base in Mali capital

Unidentified gunmen attacked a hotel in Mali’s capital Bamako on Monday that had been converted into a base for a European Union military training mission in the West African nation, a Defence Ministry official and a witness said.

European military sources said that there were no casualties among the staff of the base, and that one of the attackers had been killed. Three of the four attackers had fled the scene, according to Radio France Internationale (RFI).

The company that manages the hotel-turned-training base announced that the attack had ended around an hour-and-a-half after initial reports that gunmen had targeted the facility.

However, Mali’s interior ministry said that two suspects had been arrested.

“The attackers tried to force through the entry and the guards posed in front of the entrance opened fire. One attacker was killed. The gunfire continued for several minutes,” said one witness near the Nord-Sud hotel.

A Defence Ministry spokesman said Malian forces were on the ground at the scene of the attack but had no further details on the incident.

Monday’s assault on the Nord-Sud hotel follows last November’s deadly assault on the luxury Radisson Blu hotel, which left 22 people dead, the country’s worst terror attack in years.

Two Islamist militant groups claimed the assault, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The group also targeted a beach resort town in Ivory Coast
earlier this month, killing 19 people.

Mali has been plunged into insecurity following a 2012 coup, which cleared the way for a jihadist takeover of northern Mali. The area, an expanse of desert the size of Texas, was controlled by a dangerous mix of Islamist and Tuareg separatist groups until a French military operation launched in January 2013 succeeded in seizing control of northern Mali.

But the impoverished West African nation has been hit by a number of attacks in recent months.

About 1,000 French troops remain in the country. The Netherlands also has troops working with the UN mission in Mali. According to the Dutch defence ministry, some 450 Dutch military personnel are taking part in the mission along with four Apache and three Chinook helicopters.

Most of the Dutch force is based in Gao, but there are a few officers at the UN mission headquarters in Bamako.

– REUTERS

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