Mali hunts suspects after hotel siege

  • 22/11/2015
Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita stands outside the Radisson hotel in Bamako, Mali (Reuters)
Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita stands outside the Radisson hotel in Bamako, Mali (Reuters)

Mali was hunting for suspects wanted over the jihadist siege at a luxury hotel that left 19 people dead, mostly foreigners, as the president warned that no one in the world could hide from terrorism.

The government has declared a state of emergency after the bloody nine-hour hostage-taking at the Radisson Blu hotel in the capital Bamako on Friday (local time), exactly a week after the Paris attacks.

The Al-Murabitoun group, an Al-Qaida affiliate led by notorious one-eyed Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, nicknamed the "Uncatchable" or "Mr Marlboro", claimed the attack.

Gunmen went on the rampage from the early morning, shooting in the corridors and taking 170 guests and staff hostage.

The assault, which ended when Malian and international troops stormed the hotel, left 19 people dead as well as two attackers, Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said.

The victims included six Russians, three Chinese, two Belgians, an American, an Israeli, a Senegalese and a member of the Malian special forces.

Authorities are now "actively pursuing" at least three people over the attack in the former French colony, one security source told AFP.

Keita, who vowed in a televised address on the day of the siege that "terror will not win", visited the site Saturday.

"Nowhere in the world is one safe from these barbarians from another era," he said, adding that the attackers had "decided to break with humanity".

Senegalese President Macky Sall, who heads the regional Economic Community of West African States, will travel to Bamako on Sunday to offer his condolences, his office said.

Mali will begin three days of national mourning Monday.

"It's very scary. It's as if Bamako has become a war zone," said local teacher Oumar Keita. "How were they able to get here, how did they get the weapons?"

Security remained tight around the Radisson and other hotels in Bamako and was also boosted discreetly at public buildings and banks.

Mali has been torn apart by unrest since the north fell under the control of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaida in 2012.

The Islamists were largely ousted by a French-led military operation launched the following year, but large swathes of Mali remain lawless.

UN chief General Ban Ki-moon also condemned Friday's "horrific terrorist attack," suggesting the violence was aimed at destroying peace efforts in the country.