One US citizen was killed and around a dozen more had to be rescued on Friday when suspected Islamist gunmen stormed a Bamako hotel, the State Department said.
At least 27 people were killed in the attack and more than 100 guests were held hostage during the fighting, while those rescued included US embassy staff.
Two US special forces soldiers already in Bamako also responded to the incident and helped Malian forces during the rescue, US Africa Command said.
A senior State Department official confirmed that one American, whom he did not identify, was among the dead.
Earlier, spokesman John Kirby had said that “a dozen” Americans — including US embassy staff — were among those rescued during the dramatic and confused events.
“I can confirm that all the chief of mission personnel who were at the hotel at the time of the attack are accounted for and are in a safe location,” he said.
“I don’t have any information to corroborate reports concerning the number of US citizens in that hotel. About a dozen Americans — including chief of mission personnel within that dozen — were rescued.”
Kirby said some staff attached to the embassy were staying at the Radisson Blu, but denied reports that the US ambassador to Mali was in the hotel.
“All chief of mission personnel are accounted for and are in a safe location,” he said.
He also dismissed rumors that the attackers had used a car with US diplomatic plates.
“There was in fact, a diplomatic-plated vehicle at the hotel at the time of the attack,” he said.
“It was there for completely other purposes driven by government employees. And the drivers and passengers were able to escape without harm.”
– ‘Right place, right time’ –
The two American special forces troops happened to be at the nearby US embassy for meetings when the hostage crisis erupted, Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo said.
One of them went to a joint operations center to provide “command and control” assistance. The other dashed to the hotel to “move personnel out to a secure location.”
“The Malians are very much in the lead,” Falvo stressed, adding that 26 US troops are based in Mali, 22 of them in Bamako.
“Quite honestly, it was at the right place at the right time where they were able to offer assistance… I don’t even know that they were armed.”
Gunmen entered the 190-room hotel compound in Bamako around 0700 GMT in a car with diplomatic plates and automatic gunfire was heard from outside.
Kirby said Washington was aware of reports that a known north and west African extremist group, Al-Murabitoun, had claimed responsibility for the assault.
But he said US intelligence had not yet been able to verify its authenticity.
The White House condemned the attack in the “strongest terms” and vowed to help Mali investigate.
The US officials said the incident appeared to be over and that an instruction for Americans in Mali to take shelter and not to venture out had been lifted.