Five killed in Mali nightclub attack

An attack at a Bamako nightclub popular with foreigners left at least five dead and nine wounded early Saturday. Witnesses report seeing a masked gunman.

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    The nightclub that was attacked by gunmen as Mali police provide security in Bamako, Mali, Saturday. At least one masked gunman sprayed bullets in a nightclub popular with foreigners in Mali's capital early Saturday, killing at least five people including a French person and a Belgian national, officials and witnesses said.
    Baba Ahmed/AP
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At least one masked gunman sprayed bullets in a nightclub popular with foreigners in Mali's capital early Saturday, killing five people including a French person and a Belgian national, officials and witnesses said.

Nine people were wounded including two experts at the U.N. mission, said the U.N. stabilization mission in Mali in a statement. The Swiss Defense Ministry said the two were Swiss soldiers.

"I saw a masked person with a great weapon like a machine gun go up the stairs to the bar and at first I thought it was a joke, but a few second later, I heard a first shot. People started shouting and then came a burst of gunfire. It was then that I realized it was serious. I hid," said Ibrahim Coulibaly, a survivor.

"Then the hooded man came down the stairs, past the bar, He saw the Belgian citizen who was getting into his car and he shot him. And then the attacker got in a car and left. He did not talk to anyone, he said nothing," said Coulibaly.

Another witness, Hamadou Dolo, said he saw two gunmen run out of the nightclub and jump into a car driven by an accomplice.

Mali's president and prime minister visited the scene and called it "a criminal and terrorist act." A government statement said an investigation has been opened and pledged to bring the perpetrators to book.

France and Belgium condemned the attack at La Terrasse restaurant and bar in Bamako and their foreign ministers confirmed the deaths of their nationals.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders denounced a "cowardly act of terror" and France's Laurent Fabius said "everything must be done to find those responsible for this crime."

The Belgian killed was security officer for the European Union, said EU president Donald Tusk. "The European Union will not be intimidated by terrorism, at home or abroad," said Tusk. "We will remain steadfast in support of Mali and its people."

Two people who were at the scene are being questioned to determine what happened, said a police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press.

Mali police investigators and French and U.N. police officers visited the scene Saturday.

La Terrasse is in Bamako's Hippodrome neighborhood where many expatriates live and the nightclub is popular on a Friday night for salsa dancing.

French President Francois Hollande's office said security had immediately been tightened around French facilities. A statement from his office said the French embassy has set up a crisis cell to help expatriates in Bamako.

Hollande said that he will speak with Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to show his support, much as the Malian leader visited Paris to show his support in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January.

France immediately opened a judicial inquiry, a standard procedure when a citizen is killed which allows French officials to carry out a parallel investigation, according to a judicial official in Paris who spoke on condition of anonymity because she is not authorized to speak on the matter.

French forces led a military operation in early 2013 that largely expelled al-Qaida-linked extremists from a vast area they had controlled in northeastern Mali. The military operation in that region continues, and sporadic combat and clashes take place there. Violence has been rare in Bamako despite the continued upheaval in the north.

AP writers Jamey Keaten in Paris, Raf Casert in Riga, Latvia and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

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