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Investigation into Mali attack points to 'two foreigners'

Investigators have stepped up their hunt for those responsible for killing 19 people at a luxury hotel in Bamako earlier this week. Police believe two foreigners masterminded Friday's siege.

Police sources said on Sunday that "two foreigners," along with "three or four accomplices," are suspected of carrying out a jihadist siege at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali's capital on Friday, which left nearly 20 people dead.

Agence-France Presse cited two separate police sources, who spoke to the news agency on condition of anonymity, as police widened their net for those responsible for the hostage drama.

Investigators were combing through the hotel and recovered several items which could help the enquiry, one source said.

Manhunt underway

Gunmen went on a rampage in the hotel from the early morning on Friday, shooting in the corridors and taking 170 guests and staff hostage.

The attack was claimed by the Al-Murabitoun group, an al Qaeda affiliate led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a notorious one-eyed Algerian militant.

The assault ended when Malian and international troops stormed the building. Nineteen people and two attackers were killed.

Among the victims were six Russians, three Chinese, two Belgians, an American, an Israeli, a Senegalese and a member of the Malian special forces.

Bamako's streets have returned to normal following Friday's attack despite a state of emergency, which bans all rallies and street protests.

Security has remained high at the major hotels in the Malian capital, with several hotels reporting numerous cancellations following the attack.

The country was due to begin three days of mourning on Monday.

Peace at risk?

Authorities say the siege was a clear attempt to derail a fragile peace process meant to stabilize the country's volatile north, after an al Qaeda-linked group had captured large areas of the country.

The Radisson Blu hotel had been set to host a meeting on implementing the latest peace accords.

Pope Francis on Sunday offered his condolences to the Malian people, in the form of a telegram to the archbishop of Bamako.

The pontiff, who travels to Africa this week, said he was "appalled by this senseless violence" and hoped for "the conversion of hearts and the gift of peace" in the troubled country.

mm/cmk (AFP, AP)

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