Gunfire heard at Mali resort area popular with foreigners

Mali's security minister says at least two people are dead after suspected jihadists attacked a popular resort on the outskirts of the capital. Witnesses described smoke in the air, according to local media. "Malian special forces intervened and about 20 hostages have been released", Salif Traoré said.

"Unfortunately for the moment there are two dead, including a Franco-Gabonese".

Reuters, sourcing a spokesman at the Security Ministry, reported that the resort came under attack by gunmen.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Andrea de Georgio, a freelance journalist, said the resort is located about 10km outside of the city, making it harder for authorities to reach. An attacker had also been wounded and fled, leaving a sub machine gun and six bottles of explosives behind, he said.

The landlocked west African country has been battling an insurgency for several years, with fighters roaming the north and centre of Mali.

Late past year, the U.S. State Department also warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Mali "because of ongoing terrorist attacks and criminal violence".

Gunmen stormed Le Campement Kangaba in Dougourakoro, to the east of the capital Bamako, a resort foreign residents often visit for weekend breaks.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack.

Fears of terrorist attacks has pushed Mali to extend a state of emergency on several occasions.

Gunfire first rang out at the Campement Kangaba on the outskirts of Bamako in the late afternoon, according to a security official with the United Nations mission known as MINUSMA.

In 2012 Mali's north fell under the control of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda who hijacked an ethnic Tuareg-led rebel uprising, though the Islamists were largely ousted by a French-led military operation in January 2013.

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