REUTERS is reporting that a jihadist group allied to Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in the Mali capital of Bamako and which saw some 170 people taken hostage, including 30 employees.
The claim is yet to be verified, but Al-Mourabitoun is said to be based in the country and is made up of mostly Tuaregs and Arabs. It has been led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, nicknamed variously as “The Uncatchable”, “Mr Marlboro” and “The One-Eyed”, and who allegedly masterminded the siege of an Algerian gas plant in which 38 hostages died.
There was feverish speculation that he was killed in June in a US air strike but the evidence was inconclusive and there is no known confirmation of his death.
The group was also thought to have been fragmented and less active but looks to have made a strong return if its claim made on Twitter is verified.
The latest attack on a hotel popular with foreigners stems from Libya’s civil war.
Bloomberg news agency has chronicled some key events in the ongoing conflict:
2011 - Following NATO’s air campaign on Libya and the ensuing civil war, arms and fighters formerly loyal to Muammar Gaddafi are absorbed by insurgent groups in northern Mali.
2012 - The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad - - a rebellion by Touareg groups—attacks the Malian army and gains control of towns in Mali’s desert north. They join forces with Islamist militants al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar Dine.
March 2012 - Soldiers topple the government after 20 years of democracy, citing the government’s failure to provide the resources necessary to fight the rebels. The Touareg rebels declare independence for Azawad.
January 2013 - French troops intervene as rebels come close to invading Bamako. The military steps down and Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is elected president. The French troops join a new United Nations stabilisation mission in Mali.
March 2015 - Five people are killed in a grenade attack on La Terrasse restaurant in Bamako, the first such attack in the capital. The establishment was popular with expatriates. A French person and a Belgian are among the dead.
July 2015 - French special forces kill a senior Al-Qaeda operative, Ali Ag Wadossene.
August 2015 - Twelve people—including five United Nations contractors—die as Mali’s army storms a hotel in the central town of Sevare where militants took hostages.
September 2015 - The insecurity is so bad that Mali delays local and regional elections scheduled for Oct. 25.