Photo Credit: Mali TV screenshot
Special forces entering the hotel in Mali

The U.S. State Department has authorized the voluntary departure from Mali of all “eligible family members and non-emergency” personnel at the Embassy in Bamako. U.S. citizens have also been warned not to travel to Mali, the eighth-largest country in Africa.

The advisory comes following an Al Qaeda attack on a hotel in the capital Nov. 20 that killed 20 people, including an Israeli educator and one American.

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Shmuel Benalal, 58, of Tzur Hadassah, was CEO of “Telos,” a consulting firm specializing in educational and social international development. He was staying in Mali as part of his work when he was killed. Another Israeli who was in the hotel at the time of the attack was rescued, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

Some 170 guests from the U.S., Israel, France, Turkey, and China, along with the staff, were held by 12 gunmen at the Radisson Blu hotel during the attack.

Approximately 40 French special operations police officers, along with U.S. special forces and United Nations “quick reaction” forces joined together to fight the 12 terrorists who had shot their way into the hotel.

The security situation in Mali “remains fluid,” the State Department said in its statement, and the potential for more attacks throughout the African nation remains.

The U.S. Embassy in Mali said it will provide only emergency consular services to U.S. citizens for the forseeable future.

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