French investigators aid Mali terror probe
10 March 2015, 11:20
Bamako - Counter-terrorism investigators arrived from Paris overnight to aid Mali's hunt for the killers of five people, including a French national, in a jihadist attack at a nightclub, local sources said on Monday.
Bamako has been on high alert since a masked gunman burst into La Terrasse, a popular venue among expatriates, spraying automatic gunfire and throwing grenades.
The assailant and suspected accomplice are still at large despite a huge manhunt and stepped-up vehicle checks across the capital.
"On Sunday night, the prosecutor of the anti-terrorist department of Paris and 10 French police arrived in Bamako from Paris to participate in the investigation into Saturday's killings," an airport source told AFP.
A security source confirmed the information, saying: "They will work on Saturday's incident hand-in-hand with their Malian colleagues."
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said Mali was "still standing" in a statement on Sunday evening to mark International Women's Day.
"Those who dared claim this attack will pay dearly," he said, adding that they "have failed and will fail" to spread fear through the murders.
Al-Murabitoun, a jihadist group run by leading Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, claimed responsibility for the massacre, which left a Frenchman, a Belgian and three Malians dead.
It said the attack was partly vengeance for Ahmed el Tilemsi, one of its commanders killed by the French army in Mali in December, but mainly retribution for its prophet "whom the miscreant West insulted and mocked".
The group was referring to cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The weekly was targeted in a jihadist attack in Paris in which 12 people were killed, exactly two months before the Bamako attack.
French President Francois Hollande has led the international outcry, condemning the "cowardly attack" and vowing to meet Keita to offer Paris's help to its former colony.
The attack was the first to target Westerners in Bamako, although Mali's vast desert north is riven by ethnic rivalries and an Islamist insurgency, and has seen numerous militant attacks on security forces.
Jihadists linked to al-Qaeda controlled an area of desert the size of Texas for more than nine months until a French-led military intervention in 2013 that partly drove them from the region.