At least 19 dead in terror attack on Mali hotel
BAMAKO, Mali — Gunmen attacked the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako on Friday. Bamako is the capital of Mali, a country in West Africa.
The gunmen belong to an extremist group known as the Mourabitounes. They are one of several groups that is trying to take over Mali. They want Malians to live under their brand of Islam.
Islam is one of the world's main religions. Its followers are called Muslims. There are many different kinds of Islam, just like there are different kinds of Christianity.
The kind of Islam the Mourabitounes and other Islamic extremist groups are trying to spread is very harsh. There is no room for people who think differently. Most kinds of Islam are not like that, and most Muslims are nothing like the Mourabitounes.
18 Killed In The Attack; One Mali Soldier Killed
There are other Islamic extremist groups like the Mourabitounes, though. They include al-Qaida, which launched the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York. The Mourabitounes once worked with al-Qaida. Another Islamic extremist group is ISIS, the group that recently attacked Paris, France. It is also called Islamic State.
The attack on the Radisson Blu hotel began early Friday. Around 170 hotel guests and workers were taken prisoner, though some were able to hide or escape.
Malian soldiers quickly sped to the hotel, along with U.S. and French forces. The troops swarmed in and began fighting from floor to floor. By evening they had freed all the prisoners.
Not everyone made it out alive, though. Eighteen people in the hotel were killed and one Malian soldier died as well.
Guests Were From All Over The World
The hotel's guests came from many countries. They included visitors from France, Belgium, Germany, China, India, Canada, Ivory Coast and Turkey. Still, many people felt what happened was as an attack on France and the French in particular.
Mali was once a French colony, controlled by France. It did not separate from France until 1960. Since then, France has remained involved in the country and the region. It has been fighting Islamic extremists in Mali and nearby countries.
In 2013 France sent troops to Mali to drive out Islamic fighters who had taken over the northern part of the country. French troops did manage to take back the seized territory. However, many of the Islamic fighters remain, and they have been regrouping.
There have been a growing number of terror attacks in Mali this year, including in the capital. In March masked gunmen shot up a restaurant in Bamako, killing five people. The restaurant is popular with foreigners.
French Troops In Five African Countries
France now has 3,500 troops in Mali and four other nearby African countries. They are there to keep up the fight against Islamic extremist groups.
For that reason, many in France saw Friday's attack also as an attack on the French. What happened was doubly shocking because only a week earlier, ISIS terrorists struck in Paris. They killed 129 people and wounded hundreds.
French President Francois Hollande quickly reacted to the new attack. "We should yet again stand firm," he said. France must stand with "a friendly country, Mali," he added.
U.S. President Barack Obama said he was closely watching the situation.
Soldiers Led Survivors Out Of Hotel
Monique Kouame Affoue Ekonde, who is from Ivory Coast, was in the hotel when it was attacked. Ekonde said she was led out by soldiers as the gunmen rushed toward the fifth or sixth floor.
Ekonde added that after being freed she was still "in a state of shock."
The Chinese government said 10 Chinese citizens were in the hotel as well. They managed to hide in their rooms, and all are now safe. All work for Chinese companies doing work in Mali.
Twelve members of an Air France airplane flight crew were also reported safe. So were five crew members from Turkish Airlines. All 20 hotel guests from India are safe as well, India's government said.
At least six Americans were also freed. It is still not clear how many Americans were staying at the hotel.