Heavily armed Islamic extremists seized dozens of hostages Friday at a Radisson hotel, but Malian troops, backed by U.S. and French special forces, swarmed in to retake the building and free many of the terrified captives. At least 20 people, including one American, were killed along with two gunmen during the more than seven-hour siege, a Malian military commander said.
An extremist group led by former al-Qaida commander Moktar Belmoktar claimed responsibility for the attack in the former French colony, and many in France saw it as a new assault on their country's interests a week after the Paris attacks.
While French President Francois Hollande did not link the violence at the Radisson Blu hotel with last week's bloodshed in Paris, he declared that France would stand by the West African country.
"Once again, terrorists want to make their barbaric presence felt everywhere, where they can kill, where they can massacre. So we should once again show our solidarity with our ally, Mali," he said.
President Barack Obama called the attack a reminder of the "scourge of terrorism" and said its barbaric nature only "stiffens our resolve to meet this challenge."
Gunfire continued throughout the day at the hotel, which is popular with airline crews and other foreigners doing business in the capital of Bamako, but the shooting had stopped after dark.
Officials would not confirm that the entire complex had been secured by nightfall, although the only activity was firefighters carrying bodies to waiting ambulances.