French and Malian special forces are conducting a joint military operation after suspected jihadists stormed a luxury resort in Dougourakoro, Western Mali. Mali's security minister has confirmed two fatalities so far.
"It is a jihadist attack,” Security Minister Salif Traore told AFP. “Malian special forces intervened... Unfortunately for the moment there are two dead, including a Franco-Gabonese [citizen]."
Approximately 32 hostages seized in the Bamako attack have been rescued by security forces, according to the security ministry spokesman, as cited by Reuters.
Gunmen attacked the Campement Kangaba luxury resort in Dougourakoro, near the capital, Bamako, on Sunday afternoon, though the security operation is still under way, according to the Malian Security Ministry. The resort is a popular destination for expats and western tourists alike.
Soldiers from France’s Bakhane counter-terrorist force have setup a security cordon in conjunction with local authorities.
"Security forces are in place. Campement Kangaba is blocked off and an operation is under way," Security Ministry spokesman Baba Cisse said by telephone, as cited by Reuters. "The situation is under control," he added.
The US Embassy in Bamako issued a warning June 9 of a potential attack in the near future.
“The US Embassy informs US citizens of a possible increased threat of attacks against Western diplomatic missions, places of worship, and other locations in Bamako where Westerners frequent. Avoid vulnerable locations with poor security measures in place, including hotels, restaurants and churches.”
Mali has been battling a jihadist insurgency in the central and northern regions of the country for years.
Jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) seized control of northern Mali in 2012, taking advantage of a rebel uprising in the region. However, the insurgency was quashed by a French-led military offensive in January 2013.
In November 2015, 20 people died after gunmen took guests and staff hostage at the Radisson Blu hotel in the capital. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack.
A force of 10,000 UN peacekeeping troops, including a large contingent of French soldiers, has battled the insurgency with limited success.
At least two people were killed in an attack by gunmen on Sunday at a luxury resort outside Mali's capital Bamako popular with Western expatriates, the Security Ministry said.
Gunmen stormed Le Campement Kangaba in Dougourakoro, to the east of the capital Bamako, a resort foreign residents often visit for weekend breaks. There were no details of casualties but the attack was continuing on Sunday evening.
"Security forces are in place. Campement Kangaba is blocked off and an operation is under way," Security Ministry spokesman Baba Cisse said by telephone. "The situation is under control."
However, he said two people had been killed, including a French-Gabonese citizen and another whose nationality was not yet known, he said.
Witness Boubacar Sangare was just outside the compound during the attack. "Westerners were fleeing the encampment while two plainclothes police exchanged fire with the assailants," he said.
"There were four national police vehicles and French soldiers in armored vehicles on the scene." A helicopter was circling overhead, he said.
A spokesman for French forces in Mali declined to immediately comment.
Security has gradually worsened across Mali since French forces pushed back allied Islamist and Tuareg rebel fighters in 2013 from swathes of the north they had occupied the previous year.
Initially concentrated in the desert north, attacks have increasingly struck the center and south, around the capital Bamako. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and another militant group claimed responsibility for an attack on a Bamako hotel in late 2015 in which 20 people were killed.
French troops and a 10,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force have battled to stabilize the former French colony, which is riven by ethnic conflict and plagued by dozens of armed groups.