Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sunday Globe Special: Mali's Lone Gunman


"Gunman kills 5 at restaurant in Mali’s capital; Targets eatery that is popular with foreigners" by Adam NossiterNew York Times  March 08, 2015

DAKAR, Senegal — A masked gunman opened fire on a restaurant in Mali’s capital, Bamako, early Saturday, killing at least two Europeans — a Frenchman and a Belgian — and three Malians.

The gunman sprayed the restaurant, La Terrasse, with bullets, firing indiscriminately, according to residents and officials. Saturday morning, a ranking security official said two people had been arrested in connection with the attack.

“This was a terrorist attack. It’s absolutely clear,” said the official, an army officer who asked not to be quoted by name.

The attack took place in Hippodrome, a neighborhood of the capital that contains a number of bars and restaurants frequented by foreigners.

From one moment to the next, a festive Friday night at La Terrasse, crowded with UN workers and other Europeans, turned into a pandemonium of bullets, blood, and fear, witnesses said.

A lone gunman burst into the restaurant, witnesses said, and began firing at tables where Europeans were seated.

“We were laughing, talking. Suddenly these people came inside,” said a Swedish health worker, Reidun Runften, who had been dancing at the bar. “It was boom, boom, boom,” she said. “I was very close to the bar, and we just went under there. We didn’t move because they were shooting a lot,” she said.

When she looked up, a young Malian woman — the girlfriend of a European sitting next to her — was lying on the floor, blood coming from her neck, Runften said.

While Al Qaeda-linked terrorists took over Mali’s sparsely populated desert north three years ago, only to be driven out by French and Chadian forces a year later, the distant capital has been spared such attacks.

Bamako has been considered a terrorist-free zone, though it has been the scene of considerable political and civil unrest over the last three years, with a military coup in 2012 and frequent score-settling among army factions.

Saturday’s attack took place shortly after midnight, in a neighborhood alive on weekends with music from open-air bars and restaurants. Witnesses said the gunman killed a police officer on his way out the door of La Terrasse, then climbed into a car driven by an accomplice.

Some reports on Malian websites said the attackers also hurled grenades. At Gabriel Touré Hospital, an official said there were numerous people wounded in the attack.


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