Malian security forces have killed five militants involved in an attack at the weekend on a luxury resort popular with Western expatriates outside Mali’s capital Bamako.
“This was without doubt a terrorist attack,” Security Minister Salif Traore told Radio France International.
“The anti-terrorist forces arrived on the scene immediately afterwards. Five terrorists were killed … The operations continued throughout the night.”
Traore added that the militants had some accomplices who had not been killed or detained. On Sunday night, authorities reported that two of the assailants had been killed.
Authorities sais that gunmen on Sunday attacked a luxury resort popular with Western expatriates just outside Mali’s capital, Bamako, killing two people.
Traore who called the attack a terrorist act, said that 36 guests were rescued.
Four gunmen arriving on motorbikes and a car stormed Le Campement Kangaba, near Dougourakoro, to the east of the capital Bamako, a resort that foreign residents visit for weekend breaks.
Malian security forces backed by French troops deployed to push them out.
Traore said: “At first we thought they were armed bandits but we know how armed bandits operate, they don’t hold territory, so now we think it is a terrorist attack.”
According to a Reuters witness, Malian security forces, UN peacekeeping mission vehicles and French military armored vehicles surrounded the resort.
A helicopter circled overhead.
In a later news conference, Traore said Malian forces fatally shot two of the attackers but the other two escaped and were being pursued.
The minister said an attacker had been wounded and fled, leaving a submachine gun and six bottles of explosives behind.
“We’re now in the process of combing the area to verify no one is hiding anywhere,” Traore said.
One of victims killed in the attack was a French-Gabonese citizen, while the other has not yet been identified, Traore said.
He said that both were killed by gunfire.
The minister said two hotel staff workers and two guests were also wounded by bullet.
Traore said eight policemen were wounded in the shootout with the attackers.
Security has gradually worsened across Mali since French forces pushed back 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 Bamako.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and another militant group claimed responsibility for an attack on a Bamako hotel in 2015 in which 20 people were killed.
Traore said of the 36 people who escaped unharmed, there were 13 French citizens, 14 Malians, and also Spanish, Dutch, Egyptian and Kenyan nationals.
Daniel Okwogo, a Kenyan guest who witnessed the attack, said that about 30 minutes after his arrival he heard the gunshots.
“So … we took a cover, slipped under the bed and then the security team came and evacuated us,” Okwogo 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.
French troops and a 10,000-strong UN peacekeeping force have battled to stabilise Mali, a former French colony riven by ethnic conflict and plagued by dozens of armed groups.
A spokesman for French forces in Mali declined to comment.