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Bamako Attack Survivor Tells Harrowing Story

  • Katarina Hoije

Soldiers from the presidential guard patrol outside the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali, in anticipation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's visit, Nov. 21, 2015., following an attack on the hotel by Islamic extremists.

Soldiers from the presidential guard patrol outside the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali, in anticipation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's visit, Nov. 21, 2015., following an attack on the hotel by Islamic extremists.

Details of the more than seven-hour attack on a luxury hotel in Bamako, Mali, that left up to 27 dead, remain unclear, including how many of the attackers are still at large.

At 7 a.m. on Friday, many of the hotel guests at the Radisson Blu were still asleep. In the first floor breakfast dining room, the staff was busy setting the tables.

Terry Kemp, an American building company employee was waiting for a car to pick him up and take him to the U.S. embassy only a few blocks from the hotel. He and his colleague John Hernandez were just getting in the car when they heard gunshots coming from the other end of the parking lot.

“We got the doors open when [we] noticed shooting across the street, four to five individuals running towards us and shooting. We immediately ran back inside. As we were going up the steps, the glass was shattered. I went in. I fell down. John kept going. I got back up. The terrorists were behind me,” Kemp told VOA.

Kemp and Hernandez were both rescued, Kemp after about an hour by U.S. embassy security services. Hernandez climbed the staircase to the roof, where the U.N. Quick Response Force found him hours later.

But more than 20 others were not so lucky. Among the dead were Chinese businessmen with the China Railway Company and Russians working for a freight company servicing French forces and the U.N. mission in Mali. A Belgian parliamentarian and an American development consultant, Anita Datar, also lost their lives in the attack, which kept over 100 guests and staff trapped inside the hotel for hours.

Al-Mourabitoun, a breakaway al-Qaida faction from the country's north, claimed responsibility for the siege that ended after special forces stormed the luxury facility, considered the safest hotel in Bamako. Over the weekend, hotels all over the capital ramped up security.

On Sunday, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita had to step over broken glass and bloodstains still left on the floor when he visited the Radisson Blu along with Senegalese leader Macky Sall, high-ranking generals and the hotel management and staff.

The president called the attack a global threat and called on all Malians to unite in the fight against the terrorists.

“Today we see a changed world, a place where terrorists can attack anytime, anywhere. All Malians need to join forces against this threat,” Keita said.

Over the weekend, Keita announced a state of emergency and three days of mourning.

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