Mali luxury hotel reopens after Islamist bloodbath as manhunt for pair continues

AFP-JIJI

Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Tuesday hailed the reopening of a luxury hotel at the center of a deadly Islamist attack, saying it was a victory over the scourge of jihadi violence.

Gunmen took guests and staff hostage at the 190-room Radisson Blu in Bamako on Nov. 20 in a siege that left 20 people dead, most of them foreigners. The attack was later claimed by two extremist groups.

“This is a victory of life over the jihadists,” Keita said as around 100 people gathered at a reopening ceremony for the refurbished hotel.

Keita paid tribute to three slain employees and the surviving staff, vowing to tighten security in the capital and promising: “We will continue to fight terrorism in the strongest terms.”

Al-Murabitoun, an al-Qaida affiliate led by notorious Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, claimed it was behind the raid while another jihadi group from central Mali, the Macina Liberation Front, also claimed responsibility.

Days after the siege, Malian forces in Bamako arrested two people, but no further arrests have been made since.

Sources close to the inquiry say two other suspects are “actively” being sought.

Security has been beefed up since the attack with new gates installed at the Radisson’s east and west entrances, more stringent vehicle searches and twice as many armed guards patroling the grounds.

“Today we can say that the Radisson is the most secure hotel in the Malian capital,” said an official from the Ministry of Security.

The pictures of the three staff killed in the attack were displayed in a reception room where the opening ceremony took place.

“We are thinking of our three comrades. We miss them. That is what hurts me,” said a waiter who gave his name as Bintou.

Staff said the hotel had already taken around 15 bookings, including for Western clients.