Mali Hotel Attack: Al-Qaeda Splinter Group Responsible, Says Prosecutor

People stand outside the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako on November 21, 2015, a day after a deadly attack. Mali's chief prosecutor said new evidence has emerged which links the militant group Al-Mourabitoun to the attack. ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images

An Al-Qaeda splinter group led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar was most likely responsible for a November hotel attack in which 20 people were killed, the chief prosecutor in Mali has said.

Three militant groups claimed responsibility for the November 20 incident, in which a number of foreign tourists were killed by gunmen at the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali's capital Bamako.

Al-Mourabitoun, a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda and led by veteran Algerian militant Belmokhtar, claimed to have jointly carried out the attack with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Another lesser known Malian group, the Macina Liberation Front, also said it was responsible for the attack.

Speaking late on Saturday on state television, chief prosecutor Boubacar Sidiki Samake said that a note with an Arabic inscription was found on the bodies of the two gunmen killed by Malian special forces after the attack. The note demanded the release of two members of Al-Mourabitoun currently detained in Niger and Mauritania. "These factors lead us to think that effectively Al-Mourabitoun was at the origin of this attack," said Samake.

Until Saturday, Malian authorities had not indicated which of the three groups was believed to be responsible for the attack, although they arrested two suspects connected to the incident in November.

Belmokhtar has been dubbed "The Uncatchable" after being reported dead several times only to later re-emerge. Libya's internationally-recognized government said in June that Belmokhtar had been killed in a U.S. airstrike carried out inside the country, although the militant's supporters denied these claims.

Militant groups and rebels from the Tuareg people launched a rebellion against the Malian government in 2012, taking control of much of the country's lawless north. A French counter-operation gradually reclaimed the territory in 2013, but Mali has remained unstable and threatened by militants. In December 2015, the Malian government declared a state of emergency following a series of threats from undisclosed groups and French forces killed around 10 fighters during an operation against Al-Mourabitoun.