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Mali, neighbours in mourning as siege hotel yields clues

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Bamako : Mali on Monday started three days of national mourning for the victims of the jihadist siege at a luxury hotel that left 19 people dead in the capital Bamako, with neighbouring Senegal, Mauritania and Guinea joining in a show of solidarity.

The investigation was “following several lines” with no certainty about the number and nationality of the perpetrators of the attacks, which have been claimed by two separate jihadist groups. Gunmen went on the rampage at the Radisson Blu hotel from early morning on Friday, shooting in the corridors and taking 170 guests and staff hostage.

The assault, which ended when Malian and international troops stormed the building, left 19 people dead, including 14 foreigners, as well as two attackers, according to a “definitive” report by the government. The victims included six Russians, three Chinese, two Belgians, an American, an Israeli, a Senegalese and a member of the Malian special forces.

Read: China condemns Mali attack with three Chinese among the dead

The UN peacekeeping force in Mali, MINUSMA, however spoke of 22 fatalities, including two attackers. Senegal’s President Macky Sall visited Bamako on Sunday to show national solidarity and the support of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS which he chairs. “Mali will never be alone in this fight, we are all committed because we are all involved,” he said, announcing that Mali’s neighbours Senegal, Mauritania and Guinea would also observe three days of mourning.

Al-Murabitoun group, an Al-Qaeda affiliate led by notorious one-eyed Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has claimed responsibility for the attack. The group said on Monday there were only two attackers and suggested they were Malian.

In a recording broadcast by Al-Jazeera, a spokesman identified them as Abdelhakim al-Ansari and Moez al-Ansari, with the term “al-Ansari” indicating they were indigenous jihadists. A jihadist group from central Mali, the Macina Liberation Front (LWF), however claimed the attack in a statement on Sunday, saying it was carried out by a squad of five, including “three who came out safe and sound”.

A Malian security source said that the authorities were “actively pursuing” at least three people over the attack in the former French colony. Another informed source spoke of “three or four accomplices” believed to have aided the “foreign” gunmen who attacked the hotel frequented by businessmen, diplomats and other expatriates.

PTI