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Story highlights

The men are suspected of helping execute a raid at a hotel in Bamako, army spokesman says

"They were found after a phone at the scene was connect to the both suspects," spokesman says

(CNN) —  

Gunmen who raided a Malian hotel shouted “Allahu akbar” as they sprayed bullets on tables of people who were gathered for breakfast, a witness said.

The men are suspected of helping execute the attack that killed 19 people at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, an army spokesman said

“They were found after a phone at the scene was connected to both suspects,” spokesman Modibo Naman Traore said.

Authorities arrested both men, who are in their early 30s, on the outskirts of the city. The spokesman did not provide details on what their exact role was.

The attack

Gunmen raided the hotel hollering “Allahu akbar” as they sprayed bullets on tables of people gathered for breakfast November 20.

Otherwise, the attackers did not say a word to anyone as they opened fire Friday morning, employee Tamba Couye said.

They shot at “anything that moved” as terrified patrons dashed for cover all over the hotel, he said.

On the night patrol in the heart of Bamako

Siege ends

Malian and U.N. security forces rushed in and ended the siege hours later.

Two attackers also died, but it’s unclear whether security forces killed them or whether they blew themselves up, mission spokesman Olivier Salgado said.

Islamist militant group Al Mourabitoun claimed it carried out the attack together with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, according to the Al Akhbar news agency.

Al Mourabitoun said the attack was carried out in retaliation for government aggression in northern Mali, Al Akhbar reported. The group also demanded the release of prisoners in France.

Mali’s struggle for stability

Mali has struggled with instability and Islamist extremists for years.

Taking advantage of a chaotic situation after a military coup in March 2012, Islamist extremists with links to al Qaeda carved out a large portion of northern Mali for themselves. When the militants tried to push into the south, France, at the Malian government’s request, sent thousands of troops in 2013.

At the Malian government’s request, France sent thousands of troops in 2013 to help push out the militants. The United Nations also established a peacekeeping mission to keep the government secure enough to continue a peace process.

Though military pressure largely drove Islamist militants from cities, they have regrouped in the desert areas, said J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Washington-based Atlantic Council.

At the time, the Malian army said the attackers were affiliated with the Macina Liberation Movement. Human Rights Watch has described the group as Islamists who commit “serious abuses in the course of military operations against Mali’s security forces.”

Journalist Katarina Höije in Bamako contributed to this report