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European leaders condemn Mali restaurant attack as terrorism

A total of five people have been killed in an attack in Mali's capital, Bamako, which some European leaders are labeling terrorism. A Belgian working as a security officer for an EU delegation was among the victims.

The Belgian officer is among those reported to have been killed in the attack early Saturday in and around the La Terrasse restaurant and nightclub, a venue popular with foreigners in Mali's capital city of Bamako.

A French citizen was also killed, along with three Malians. Up to nine people are reported to have been wounded. Two international experts from the United Nations Mine Action Service were among them, according to initial reports.

Senior police officer Falaye Kante told Reuters news agency that two armed and hooded individuals carried out the attack, with one bursting into the restaurant and opening fire, before getting into a vehicle where the other was waiting.

"As they fled down a neighboring street, they shot a Belgian man who was in front of his house. He's dead. Not far away they came across a police vehicle and threw a grenade, killing the driver," he said.

Other witness reports indicate three people may have been involved in carrying out the attack. Two people have reportedly been detained for questioning.

Attackers denounced

Both France and Belgium have confirmed that nationals of their countries were killed, and their foreign ministers have condemned the attack. Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders called it a "cowardly act of terror."

French President Francois Hollande said security had been tightened at French facilities in the former French colony, and that he would speak with Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to show his support.

The European Union's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini confirmed that the Belgian security officer was with an EU delegation.

"This terrorist act strengthens even more our resolve to help fight terrorism throughout the region."

The attack comes at a sensitive time for Mali, with the government having signed a preliminary peace proposal intended to end fighting with separatist groups in the country's north. However, Tuareg-led rebels asked for more time before they would agree to anything.

In early 2013, a French-led military operation largely expelled al Qaeda-linked fighters from northern Mali. The EU is also helping to assist and train Malian security forces. However, despite the years of upheaval in the north, violence in the capital has been rare.

se/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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