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At least two people were killed in an attack by gunmen on Sunday at a luxury resort outside Mali’s capital Bamako that is popular with Western expatriates, the Security Ministry said.

Gunmen stormed Le Campement Kangaba in Dougourakoro, to the east of the capital Bamako, a resort foreign residents often visit for weekend breaks.

“Security forces are in place. Campement Kangaba is blocked off and an operation is under way,” Security Ministry spokesman Baba Cisse said by telephone. “The situation is under control.”

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Police are seen with four people who were rescued from the Le Campement Kangaba resort following the attack. (Reuters)

However, he said two people had been killed, including a French-Gabonese citizen and another whose nationality was not yet known, he said.

Security forces have rescued 32 guests from the resort, a security ministry spokesman said on Sunday. He had no further details.

Gunfire first rang out at the Campement Kangaba in the late afternoon, according to a security official with the United Nations mission known as MINUSMA. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

“I heard gunfire coming from the camp and I saw people running out of the site,” said Modibo Diarra, who lives nearby. “I learned that it was a terrorist attack.”

Malian soldiers later succeeded in entering the resort area, according to Commandant Modibo Traore, a spokesperson for the Malian special forces in the former French colony.

Witness Boubacar Sangare was just outside the compound during the attack.

“Westerners were fleeing the encampment while two plainclothes police exchanged fire with the assailants,” he said. “There were four national police vehicles and French soldiers in armoured vehicles on the scene.”

A helicopter was circling overhead, he said.

A spokesman for French forces in Mali declined to immediately comment.

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Flames and smoke rise from the luxury resort after the attack. (Reuters)

Smoke seen rising from resort

As night fell, witnesses saw smoke rising from the Campement Kangaba, which features three swimming pools and is a popular escape from the Malian heat. It was not immediately clear what was burning, although jihadists in other attacks have set cars ablaze.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came amid the final week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In predominantly Muslim Mali, people have been fasting from sunrise to sundown for three weeks.

The UN official said those at the resort when the attack began included people affiliated with the French military mission as well as the UN and European Union missions in the country.

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An armoured vehicle drives towards Le Campement Kangaba resort. (Reuters)

Security has worsened since 2013

Sunday’s violence came about a week after the U.S. State Department warned of possible attacks on Western diplomatic missions and other locations in Bamako that Westerners frequent.

Security has gradually worsened in Mali since French forces pushed back allied Islamist and Tuareg rebel fighters in 2013 from swathes of the north they had occupied the previous year.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and another militant group claimed responsibility for an attack on a hotel in Mali’s capital in late 2015 in which 20 people were killed.

French troops and a 10,000-strong UN peacekeeping force have battled to stabilize the former French colony and strikes on Malian and Western targets have spread further south and far beyond traditional militant strongholds.

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