Gunfire heard at Mali resort area popular with foreigners

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Residents living near the resort said shots were fired while smoke could be seen in the air. The number of casualties was unclear in the assault, which continued through the afternoon.

Soldiers from France's Bakhane counter-terrorist force have setup a security cordon in conjunction with local authorities. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

French and Malian special forces are conducting a joint military operation after suspected jihadists stormed a luxury resort in Dougourakoro, Western Mali.

The French Foreign Ministry would not say whether any French citizens were hurt or otherwise involved in the attack in the West African country. Two guests, however, died in the attack, among them a French - Gabonese citizen.

Religious extremism in Mali once was limited to northern areas, prompting the French military in 2013 to lead a military operation to oust jihadists from power in the major towns in the north.

Officials from the French military mission in Mali, the European Union and the United Nations also were there this weekend, he added.

Late previous year, the U.S. State Department also warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Mali "because of ongoing terrorist attacks and criminal violence".

An official in Macron's office said the president has been informed about the attack and he and his teams are following the evolving events. That attack left 20 dead - six Malians and 14 foreigners.

In March the same year, a grenade and gun attack on La Terrasse nightclub in Bamako killed five people, including foreigners.

The attack was claimed by Al-Qaeda's North African affiliate Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Associated Press writers Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal, and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

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