BAMAKO, Mali - A masked gunman sprayed bullets in a restaurant popular with foreigners in Mali's capital early Saturday, killing five people, including French and Belgian nationals, officials and witnesses said.
Al Mourabitoun, or the Sentinels, a northern Mali jihadist group allied with al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the Mauritanian news website Al-Akhbar. It often receives messages from Malian extremists.
Nine people were wounded, including two experts at the U.N. mission, the U.N. stabilization mission in Mali said in a statement. The experts, Swiss soldiers, were being flown to Senegal for treatment, the Swiss Defense Ministry said.
Witness Ibrahim Coulibaly described the attack: "I saw a masked person with a great weapon like a machine gun go up the stairs to the bar . . . a few second later, I heard a first shot. People started shouting and then came a burst of gunfire. . . .I hid. Then the hooded man came down the stairs, past the bar, and he saw the Belgian citizen who was getting into his car and he shot him. And then the attacker got in a car and left." Another witness, Hamadou Dolo, said he saw two gunmen run out and jump into a car driven by an accomplice.
Mali's president and prime minister visited the scene and called the attack "a criminal and terrorist act." A government statement said an investigation has been opened and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice.
France and Belgium condemned the attack at La Terrasse, the restaurant and bar in Bamako.
Secretary of State John Kerry, in France, called the attack an act of cowardice. French President Francois Hollande's office said security had immediately been tightened around French facilities.