On the night patrol in Mali

Bandar Sabung Ayam

Story highlights

  • CNN follows a U.N. team in Bamako, the capital of Mali, as it goes on night patrol
  • Mali is a former French colony and has been dealing with an insurgency

They are dressed in crisp, dark-blue uniforms and trademark blue flak jackets and helmets. The U.N. mission here is used to patrolling deep in Mali’s interior, but not here in the heart of the capital. This is a first.

On Friday, a week after terror attacks shocked Paris, this former French colony woke to an unfolding hostage crisis at its most prominent international hotel.

At least two gunmen trailed a diplomatic vehicle on foot, breached the security and started shooting wildly in the lobby. Witnesses say many of the 20 victims killed were trying to get out through the service elevator.

Mobelli-Valloire knows it won’t take much to motivate his team tonight.

“On the day of the attack, you helped rescue people from the Radisson hotel; tonight, you will help Malians keep safe.”

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‘We are here as a show of force’

The teams walk to a dusty square in the darkness packed with nearly 100 Malian police. Some wear uniforms, others jeans and leather jackets. Most carry Kalashnikovs. They laugh and roughhouse as the Senegalese police team stands quietly in two rows awaiting orders.

At the beginning of 2012, Tuareg insurgents and Islamic groups took advantage of political chaos here and pushed aggressively to the capital. It took a 4,000-strong French operation to halt their progress.

The U.N. forces were deployed to secure the calm, and the police contingent is made up of more than 20 nations, with mostly African police and gendarmes.

Lt. Col. Mane Davy’s unit clambers into one of the armored personnel carriers.

“We are here as a show of force,” he says through the din of the monster air-conditioned APC as it rumbles down the street. “And to support the Malians to chase any leads.”

Davy’s APC trails behind a Malian police Toyota pickup. “It’s their security at stake,” he says. “They need to take control.”

There’s a stark contrast between the police details.

On the first patrol, the Malian police were low on fuel. They complain that they don’t have the right equipment or flak jackets. U.N. commanders say they have asked to join patrols before, but perhaps it was too politically sensitive for Mali’s politicians.

On Monday, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita toured the Radisson with President Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin. At the front entrance, just in front of blood-stained pavement, he stopped briefly to address reporters.

“Any country would need support and help,” Keita said. “It’s only through international solidarity that we will be able to win.”

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