Mali forces hunt Bamako attack suspects

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A breakaway al-Qaeda faction from the country’s restive north claimed responsibility for the nine-hour hostage-taking siege that ended after special forces stormed the luxury hotel. “We are actively pursuing three suspects who might have been involved in Friday’s attack on the Radisson Blu hotel,” a Malian security official told the AFP news agency on Saturday. Mali was under a state of emergency and three days of mourning were announced by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who also clarified the death toll after Malian state television reported late on Friday that 27 were dead, along with three attackers. “This evening, the death toll is heavy and terrible: 21 dead, two [assailants] amongst them, and seven wounded,” Keita said. Inside Story: Bamako Hotel Attack: Mali’s security challenges Friday’s assault on the Radisson Blu hotel was the latest in a series of deadly raids this year on high-profile targets in Mali, which has battled various rebel groups based in its desert north for years. The attack is a sharp setback for former colonial power France, which has stationed 3,500 troops in northern Mali to try to restore stability. “There’s a real sense of grief here – how could this have happened?” Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque reported from outside the hotel on Saturday. “People here didn’t expect such a brazen attack. It’s one of the most secure areas in Bamako. It comes as a shock as the attackers literally walked into the hotel.” Malian, French and US security forces ended the siege after the gunmen stormed the hotel and took about 170 people hostage.

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