BAMAKO, Nov 22, (Age-ncies): Russian President Vladimir Putin said late Saturday he wanted global cooperation to combat terrorism after Islamist militants killed 19 people, including six Russians, in an attack on a luxury hotel in Mali.
Friday’s assault came a week after militants killed 130 people in gun and bomb attacks in Paris claimed by Islamic State, and three weeks after a Russian airliner was downed over Egypt by what Moscow and Western governments say was a bomb, killing all 224 people aboard.
The bloodshed at the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali, a former French colony, evoked the problems French troops and UN peacekeepers face in restoring security and order in a West African state that has battled rebels and militants in its weakly-governed desert north for years.
Jihadist groups Al Mourabitoun and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack, which ended when Malian commandos stormed the building and rescued 170 people, many of them foreigners.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said two militants were killed in the commando operation.
His government increased security at strategic points around Bamako at the start of a declared 10-day state of emergency.
“Mali will not shut down because of this attack. Paris and New York were not shut down and Mali won’t be. Terrorism will not win,” Keita said during a visit to the hotel on Saturday.
Six employees of Russian regional airline Volga-Dnepr were killed, Russia’s foreign ministry said, while six others were rescued.
Putin sent a telegram of condolences to Keita and said “the widest international cooperation” was needed to confront global terrorism, according to a statement by the Kremlin.
On Tuesday, Putin pledged to hunt down militants responsible for blowing up the airliner, as well as intensified air strikes against militants in Syria, after the Kremlin concluded a bomb had destroyed the plane.
Putin and French President Francois Hollande also spoke by phone on Tuesday and agreed to boost coordination of their military actions in fighting jihadist militants in Syria.
Chinese President Xi Jinping condemned the “cruel and savage” attack, whose dead included three Chinese executives of a state-run railway firm.
“China will strengthen cooperation with the international community, resolutely crack down on violent terrorist operations that devastate innocent lives and safeguard world peace and security,” the Beijing Foreign Ministry quoted Xi as saying in a statement on its website.
American public health specialist Anita Datar was killed and Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said two Belgians died. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was not aware of any French nationals killed.
An Israeli national was also killed, Israeli media said. There was no confirmation from the foreign ministry.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday condemned the recent “terrorist” attack on a hotel in Bamako in Mali, which killed and injured dozens of guests and employees.
The UAE Foreign Ministry reiterated in a statement the UAE’s firm stance against all forms and manifestations of terrorism, whatever relevant motives and justifications.
It called on the international community to step up concerted efforts in order to wipe out the serious scourge of terrorism which contradicts all moral and humanitarian values.
The ministry further reaffirmed the country’s full solidarity with the Republic of Mali in the face of terrorism, expressing sincere condolences and sympathy to the people and families of the victims, and extended wishes for speedy recovery for all the injured.
The assault on the luxury hotel in Mali’s capital that killed 19 people was a clear attempt to derail a fragile peace process meant to stabilize the country’s volatile north, a representative of northern separatist groups said Sunday.
A peace accord between the Bamako-based government and separatist groups was signed in June, and local agreements in the north were signed in October. But Islamic extremist groups such as Ansar Dine had spoken out against the accord, accusing separatists who’d signed it of betraying the local population.
Friday’s assault on the Radisson Blu hotel came as the hotel was preparing to host the latest meeting of a committee working toward the accord’s implementation.
It was claimed by Al-Mourabitoun (The Sentinels), an extremist group formed by notorious Algerian militant Moktar Belmoktar with links to al-Qaeda and Ansar Dine.
“The attack was targeting the peace agreement,” said Sidi Brahim Ould Sidati, a representative of the Coordination of Azawad Movements, known by its French acronym CMA. The CMA is a coalition of groups seeking autonomy in northern Mali including ethnic Arabs and Tuaregs.
“The jihadis are in different groups but their goal is the same, and that’s to hinder implementation of the peace accord,” Sidati said.