Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta announced a ten-day state of emergency following an attack on a hotel by suspected Islamist militants in the capital Bamako.
Two or three gunmen with AK-47 rifles besieged the Radisson Blu hotel in the West-African country of Mali with at least one vehicle of diplomatic plates and entered the hotel with guns firing on Friday.
At least 21 people were killed and six injured in the attack in which an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group took responsibility. The casualties included other nationalities including Russians, Chinese, and at least one American.
The attack sparked many angry reactions worldwide. In Egypt, the Foreign Ministry and Al-Azhar strongly condemned the attack in official statements on Saturday.
Al-Azhar decided to hold an emergency meeting in response to the attack to discuss potential ways of countering religious extremism along with Islam Scholars Council. In its statement, Al-Azhar said “Islam is innocent from those terror attacks” and referred to the attackers as criminals who are stripped of all humanity.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said Egypt stands by the Mali government and its people in countering terrorism, in a statement on Sunday: “Terrorism has become an international phenomenon that needs merged forces and increased efforts to uproot it”.
Al-Mourabitoun, an Islamist militant group, claimed it was jointly responsible for the attack, according to Mauritanian news agency Al-Akhbar. It said the attack was carried out in retaliation for government aggression in northern Mali. The group also demanded the release of prisoners in France.
Mali ranks as the top most dangerous country for UN’s Peacekeeping mission, with 53 deaths by 2013, followed by Sudan, DR Congo, South Sudan, and Ivory Coast.
The US-Africa Command said forces stationed in Mali helped to secure the scene, and France’s national gendarme service said about 40 French special police forces based in Bamako took part in the assault on the hotel.
Rebel fighters linked to Al-Qaeda occupied Northern Mali in 2012 before the French-led military operation drove them out at the same year.
The French president went to the Malian capital five days after his troops finished the operation and said that it gave hope to the people of northern Mali.
The problem of jihadist in Mali seems is spreading as five people, including a French citizen and a Belgian, were killed in an attack at a restaurant in Bamako in March, the first such incident in the capital. Both attacks were also claimed by Al-Mourabitoun.
The recent attack targeted a hotel that air crew from France used to stay in, only a week after the deadly attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were killed.
Meanwhile in Brussels, the police discovered an arsenal during overnight searches of the city, according to local media. Chemicals and explosives were among the items found in the Molenbeek neighbourhood where Paris attacker Abdelhamid Abaaoud grew up.
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution to enforce action against the Islamic State militant group. The French-drafted document urges UN members to “take all necessary measures” in the fight against IS.
“IS constitutes a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security,” the resolution read. IS has recently claimed responsibility for bringing down the Russian plane that crashed in Sinai and attacks in Lebanon, Turkey, and Tunisia.