Published June 18, 2017 FoxNews
Suspected jihadists in the West African country of Mali attacked a luxury resort popular with foreigners on the outskirts of the country’s capital Sunday, killing at least two people.
The assault continued into the evening and there were believed to be hostages in the luxury Campement de Kangaba resort area near Bamako Sunday.
Residents living near the resort said that shots were fired and smoke could be seen in the air.
“I heard gunfire coming from the camp and I saw people running out of the tourist site,” said Modibo Diarra, who lives nearby. “I learned that it was a terrorist attack.”
Malian soldiers succeeded in entering the site, according to Commandant Modibo Traore, a spokesman for the Malian special forces in the former French colony.
“The operation is ongoing and we estimate that there are between three and four assailants,” he said.
As night fell, witnesses saw smoke rising from the resort, which features three swimming pools and is a popular escape from the Malian heat. It was not immediately clear what was burning, although jihadists in other attacks have set cars ablaze.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came amid the final week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In predominantly Muslim Mali, people have been fasting from sunrise to sundown for three weeks.
Baba Cisse, a spokesman for Mali’s security ministry, confirmed that one of those killed was a “French-Gabonese citizen.” The other victim’s nationality was not immediately released.
A United Nations official told the Associated Press those at the resort when the attack began included people affiliated with the French military mission as well as the U.N.
The French president’s office, the defense minister’s office and the French military would not comment immediately on the attack or on media reports saying that French forces are intervening.
The French Foreign Ministry would not say whether any French citizens were hurt or otherwise involved in the attack in the West African country.
French military spokesman Col. Patrik Steiger said he had “strictly no information” about French military involvement in the incident in Bamako. He said there are no French troops based in Bamako, but about 2,000 French troops based in northern Mali fighting Islamic extremists.
France intervened in Mali in 2013 to oust Islamic extremists who had seized control of the major northern towns the year before. While the militants were officially ousted, they have continued to launch regular attacks on U.N. peacekeeping and Malian military sites.
Sunday’s violence came about a week after the U.S. State Department warned of “possible future attacks on Western diplomatic missions, other locations in Bamako that Westerners frequent.”
Religious extremism in Mali once was limited to northern areas, although in recent years the jihadists have spread violence farther south, including a devastating attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako in November 2015. That attack left 20 dead — six Malians and 14 foreigners.