At least two people have been killed after gunmen stormed a popular tourist resort on the outskirts of Mali’s capital, Bamako, according to officials.
Malian troops and soldiers from France’s Bakhane counter-terrorist force headed to the scene after the luxury Campement de Kangaba resort, which is frequented by top officials and foreigners, came under attack on Sunday.
Local residents reported hearing shots fired while smoke billowed into the air.
“It is a jihadist attack. Malian special forces intervened and about 20 hostages have been released,” Security Minister Salif Traore told the AFP news agency.
“Unfortunately for the moment there are two dead, including a Franco-Gabonese.”
A security ministry official said government troops “have sealed off the area and are in the process of organising operations” against the attackers.
Andrea de Georgio, a freelance journalist in Bamako, also quoted officials as saying that at least two people were killed.
The resort is located about 10km outside of the city, making it harder for authorities to reach, he told Al Jazeera.
“It is very exposed to danger,” de Georgio said, adding that the attack was “well-organised”.
The west African country has been battling armed rebellion for several years, with fighters roaming the north and centre of Mali.
The US embassy in Bamako had warned earlier this month “of a possible increased threat of attacks against Western diplomatic missions, places of worship, and other locations in Bamako where Westerners frequent”.
In November 2015, gunmen took guests and staff hostage at the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako in a siege that left at least 20 people dead, including 14 foreigners.
That attack was claimed by al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate, the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group.
A state of emergency has been renewed several times since the Radisson Blu attack, most recently in April when it was extended for six months.
The United Nations has a 12,000-strong force in Mali known as MINUSMA, which began operations in 2013.
It has been targeted constantly by armed fighters, with dozens of peacekeepers killed, including five on Saturday.