Attack on popular resort outside Bamako leaves two people dead, but dozens of guests are rescued, officials say.
At least two people have been killed after an attack on a popular tourist resort on the outskirts of Mali's capital, Bamako, according to officials, but dozens of guests were rescued.
Gunmen stormed the luxury Le Campement Kangaba complex near Dougourakoro on Sunday, attacking a resort frequented by top officials and foreign residents, especially during the weekend.
Malian troops and soldiers from France's Bakhane counter-terrorist force headed to the scene. Local residents earlier reported hearing shots fired while smoke billowed into the air.
Security forces who battled the gunmen at the site were continuing on Sunday evening to search for the assailants who fled.
"At first we thought they were armed bandits but we know how armed bandits operate, they don't hold territory, so now we think it is a terrorist attack," Mali's Security Minister Salif Traore told journalists outside the resort's entrance to the resort late on Sunday, part of which was on fire.
Officials said two people had been killed, including a French-Gabonese citizen and another whose nationality was not yet known.
Two others had been wounded, one civilian and a policeman, Baba Cisse, spokesman for the security ministry, told the Reuters news agency. An attacker had also been wounded and fled, leaving a sub-machine gun and six bottles of explosives behind, he said.
Malian state TV reported that 36 guests had so far been rescued. At least 14 people, both Malians and foreigners, were wounded, according to the security ministry.
A witness told local television ORTM said he saw a man arrive on a motorcycle who "started shooting at the crowd" followed by "two or three people" who came in another vehicle.
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 told Reuters.
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, said the resort is located about 10km outside the capital.
"The attackers are hidden inside the camp, and the camp is very big so there are a lot of places where they can hide," de Georgio said.
Al Jazeera's Nicolas Haque, reporting from neighbouring Senegal, quoted sources as saying that security forces have be going door-to-door inside the resort, making sure that the fighters are apprehended or driven out.
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.