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Mali releases photos of slain gunmen in hotel attack

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Bamako: State media broadcast photos of the two slain attackers of a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital, appealing for anyone who knew them to come forward with information about the gunmen.

The photos of the two young men were taken after Friday’s rampage at the Radisson Blu hotel in which 19 people were killed, said Capt Baba Cisse at the Interior Ministry.

The gunmen, who shouted “God is great!” in Arabic as they attacked, were shot to death by security forces following a more than seven-hour siege in the capital of the West African country.

Officials also put out phone numbers, urging people who might have known them to call with information.

The decision to release the photos came a day after the Islamic extremist group that first claimed responsibility for the attack purported to identify the gunmen in an audio recording, according to Al-Akhbar, a Mauritanian news site that often receives messages from Malian extremists.

The group known as Al-Mourabitoun – or The Sentinels – identified the gunmen as Abdel Hakim Al-Ansari and Moadh Al-Ansari, a report posted Sunday by Al-Akhbar said.

No nationalities were given, though the name “Al-Ansari” suggests they were Malian. But Cisse said Malian authorities had not confirmed the men’s identities. Al-Mourabitoun’s claims could not be independently verified.

Malian officials have said they are searching for more than three suspects who may have been involved in the attack, though they gave no other details.

The extremist group said the two men were the only attackers. Initial reports from witnesses and officials suggested there could have been as many as 10 gunmen involved in the attack on the hotel in the former French colony.

Authorities released a detailed list of the 138 people from more than 20 countries evacuated from the hotel during the attack, including 18 from France, 17 from India and five from the United States.

There also were guests from Spain, Russia, Germany, Algeria, Turkey and a half-dozen countries in Africa.

The dead included six Russians, three Chinese, and one American, as well as victims from Belgium, Israel, Senegal and Mali.

France’s Defense Ministry provided new details of French support during the siege, saying that 40 of its special forces arrived in Bamako at 3 pm Friday and helped Malian forces move floor by floor “to flush out the terrorists.” Two of the troops were slightly wounded, the statement said.