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Two Defence Forces members located after terror attack at Mali hotel

Two EU workers were killed in the attack on a hotel on the edge of the capital Bamako.

Updated at 3pm  

TWO MEMBERS OF the Irish Defence Forces who were at a hotel in Mali that was attacked by suspected jihadists have been located and have returned to their local base, it was confirmed this morning.

Attackers crying “Allahu Akbar” stormed the resort on the edge of the capital Bamako yesterday, briefly seizing more than 30 hostages and leaving at least two people dead.

The assault on the Kangaba Le Campement resort comes after a similar strike less than two years ago on a luxury hotel in Bamako, which lies in the south of the troubled country.

Four assailants were killed by security forces, according to Mali’s government. It was confirmed today that the two civilians killed were both working for the EU.

“Unfortunately, I can confirm that there were two victims among our European Union colleagues, a Malian woman and a Portuguese man,” EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said.

A statement from the Defence Forces released this morning said:

All members of the Defence Forces have been located following a terrorist attack at Le Campement Hotel in Dougourakoro, Mali.
Two members of the Defence Forces had been at Le Campement Hotel when the attack occurred. They have subsequently returned to the European Union Training Mission’s Headquarters in Bamako.

Mali Attack United Nations armoured personnel vehicles stationed with an ambulance outside Campement Kangaba, in the aftermath of the attack. Source: Baba Ahmed

Nearby residents had first reported the attack after hearing shots while smoke billowed into the air, with at least one building ablaze.

“It is a jihadist attack. Malian special forces intervened,” Security Minister Salif Traore told AFP yesterday. In an update today the government said 36 hostages had been freed, with another five suspected jihadists in custody

The special forces were supported by UN soldiers and French counter-terrorism troops.

A witness interviewed on local television ORTM said he saw a man arrive on a motorcycle who “started shooting at the crowd” followed by “two or three people” who came in another vehicle.

The landlocked west African country has been fighting a jihadist insurgency for several years, with Islamist fighters roaming the north and centre of Mali.

Mali Attack Source: Baba Ahmed

In 2012 Mali’s north fell under the control of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda who hijacked an ethnic Tuareg-led rebel uprising, though the Islamists were largely ousted by a French-led military operation in January 2013.

But jihadists have continued to mount numerous attacks on civilians and the army, as well as on French and UN forces still stationed there.

The unrest has continued despite a 2015 peace deal between the government and Tuareg-led rebels offering partial autonomy to the north.

Yesterday’s attack is the latest in a series of high-profile assaults in north and west Africa, targeting locals and tourists.

The United Nations has a 12,000-strong force in Mali known as MINUSMA, which began operations in 2013.

It has been targeted constantly by jihadists, with dozens of peacekeepers killed, including five on Saturday.

The European Union launched a training mission –  EUTM Mali – for Malian armed forces in 2013.

Currently, 18 Irish personnel are serving with the mission. Seven Irish personnel occupy staff appointments in the mission Headquarters in Bamako.

Eleven Irish personnel are based in Koulikoro Training Centre, around 60km from the capital.

A report on yesterday’s incident will be compiled by the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, the Minister of State with responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe confirmed in a statement.

“Every effort is made to ensure the safety of our personnel on overseas missions, but given the inherent instability in the environments in which they operate, risk cannot be fully eliminated,” Kehoe’s statement said.

He added that “any support which may be required by Defence Forces personnel in Mali and their families following the incident will be made available”.

Includes reporting by © – AFP, 2017

Read: At least one killed in London ‘terror incident’ outside mosque >

Read: UK seeks deal ‘like no other in history’ as Brexit talks kick off  >

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