Islamic extremists who killed 19 people in a gun attack on a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital on Friday were hunting for Air France staff, a security guard has claimed.
The terrorists shot their way past a five-man security team before turning their weapons on terrified guests at the hotel in Bamako.
One security worker, Kasim Haidara, told The Telegraph that the terrorists were specifically hunting Air France staff – quizzing a man at gunpoint about their location.
“When they got up there, the terrorists asked him: ‘where are the staff of Air France?’.”He told them that they were on the seventh floor instead, and when they realised later that he had given them wrong information, they came back down and killed him.”
Another one of the guards, Cheick Dabo, said his colleagues had just finished morning prayers and had put away their weapons – a shotgun and two pistols – when the militants struck.
“We didn’t see the jihadists until they started firing on us. We weren’t concentrating and we didn’t expect it.
Mohammed Coulibaly, a cook at the hotel.
“I was busy cooking when a waitress started screaming at the door, ‘They are attacking us, they are attacking us’,”
“I asked everyone to go into the hallway, so everyone headed in that direction. Suddenly we heard the footsteps of the jihadists behind us and there was total panic, and people were running in every direction.
Mr Coulibaly said he then hid in a bathroom with one of the guests, but one of the assailants saw him through a window and started firing, prompting him to run to the kitchen where he was nearly overwhelmed by smoke.
I realised that if I didn’t leave the kitchen the smoke would kill me. So I waited until I didn’t hear any noise and I ran from the kitchen and escaped the hotel through a window,”