At least two people have been killed in a terror attack at a luxury resort frequented by expats in Mali, with further casualties reported, Independent UK reports
Security forces said operations were ongoing at Le Campement, outside the capital Bamako, after the gunmen fled.
Officials confirmed a French-Gabonese citizen had been killed and another person whose nationality was not immediately known, while 36 hostages have been rescued so far.
Local media reported that released guests, many still only wearing their swimsuits, said the gunmen shouted “Allahu akbar”, meaning “God is great” in Arabic, during the assault.
Baba Cisse, a spokesman for the security ministry, said a civilian and a police officer had also been wounded.
At least one attacker was injured and fled, leaving a sub-machine gun and six bottles of explosives behind, he added, but did not confirm the fate of the other assailants.
A witness interviewed by broadcaster ORTM said the attack started when a man arrived on a motorcycle and “started shooting at the crowd”, before “two or three people” came with another vehicle.
“I heard gunfire coming from the camp and I saw people running out of the site,” said Modibo Diarra, another witness who lives nearby.
Malian security forces said three or four gunmen were involved, with the resort surrounded by local troops, French soldiers and UN peacekeepers as a helicopter flew overhead.
As night fell, witnesses could see smoke rising from Le Campement, although it was not immediately clear what was burning.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which comes amid the final week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
A spokesperson for the government described the attackers as “suspected jihadis”, while the EU Training Mission in Mali described the incident as a terror attack and said it was assisting local forces.
The rural resort – popular with Western tourists, expats and locals – offers luxury accommodation, a spa and three swimming pools, as well as running excursions and sports for guests.
Like the majority if hotels around Bamako, visitors undergo mandatory security checks by guards upon entry, according to online reviews.
Le Campement sits in Dougourakoro on the outskirts of the city, where the Radisson Blu hotel was the target of a previous terror attack that left more than 20 people dead in November 2015.
It was one of a series of shootings and bombings to sweep the country as part of an ongoing insurgency by Islamist militants in the north, which has worsened in recent months.
The US Embassy in Mali released a warning over an “increased threat of attacks” in Mali last week, listing diplomatic missions, places of worship and “other other locations in Bamako where Westerners frequent” among potential targets.
“Avoid vulnerable locations with poor security measures in place, including hotels, restaurants, and churches,” said a statement released on 9 June.
The US warns its citizens against all travel to Mali, while the British Government advises against all travel to northern areas and “all but essential travel” to Bamako and the south.
French troops are supporting Malian government forces, while the violence has made the UN peacekeeping mission in the country the deadliest in the world.
Emmanuel Macron visited the northern former militant stronghold of Gao during his first foreign trip as President in May.
He reaffirmed France’s commitment to supporting its former colony, saying his government would be “uncompromising” in the fight against terrorists.
Mr Macron is expected to return to Mali in July for the G5 Sahel summit, and was “following developments” very closely according to his office.