Mali president to bestow medals on the 19 killed in Bamako hotel assault
BAMAKO, Mali – Mali's president announced on Wednesday that he would bestow medals on the 19 people killed during an assault at a luxury hotel in the capital last week, as funerals were held for three of its employees.
"All Malians are moved today," Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said while announcing the awarding of the National Order of Mali medals during an afternoon ceremony at a soccer field in Bamako.
The funerals were held on the final day of a three-day period of national mourning for those killed in the assault on the Radisson Blu hotel, the second attack executed by Islamic extremists in Bamako this year.
"I feel a deep pain," said Tenin Diallo, the aunt of slain 30-year-old Hawa Maiga who began working at the hotel last year. "She was the first daughter of my sister. The first daughter of a family is very important, like a third pillar of the family after the father and mother. She was born in my arms, and I gave her her first bath."
On Tuesday, Wolfgang M. Neumann, president of the Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel Group that operates the hotel, said the hotel would re-open "as soon as possible."
In a statement posted on the company's website, Neumann said he had met with the families of the three employees who were killed and offered "immediate emergency support."
Neumann also met with injured hotel employees and the hotel's owner, Cesse Kome, according to the statement.
"We paid tribute to the colleagues we have lost, underlined our solidarity and our commitment to Bamako," Neumann said.
Officials have yet to identify the two assailants killed in the attack, whose photographs were broadcast on state media Monday. The first Islamic extremist group to claim responsibility — Al-Mourabitoun, or The Sentinels — issued an audio recording on Sunday purporting to identify the gunmen, using names that suggested they were Malian.
Mali is home to a peacekeeping mission with more than 10,000 military and police personnel, established after a French-led military intervention in early 2013 drove Islamic extremists from the cities and towns they had overtaken in the country's north.
Germany's defense minister on Wednesday said the country wanted to send 650 soldiers to Mali to support the mission, which currently boasts only 10 German soldiers.
Associated Press writers Greg Keller in Bamako and Robbie Corey-Boulet in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, contributed to this report.