- Hillary Clinton on Saturday expressed her condolences to the family of Anita Datar, the American aid worker who was killed in a terrorist attack on a luxury hotel in Mali on Friday.
Twenty people were killed in Bamako, the capital of the former French colony, less than a week after terrorists armed with guns and suicide vests killed 130 and wounded hundreds more in a string of attacks across Paris.
One American died in the French capital. Nohemi Gonzalez was a 23-year-old design student from Long Beach, California, who also held Mexican citizenship.
In a heartfelt statement, Clinton, the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said she had known Datar as “ the loving mother of a wonderful seven-year-old boy and the former partner of David Garten, one of my senior policy advisers in the Senate”.
“My heart breaks thinking of the burden [her son] will now bear on his small shoulders and the courage he will have to show in the days ahead,” she said.
“As I said this week, America must wage and win an immediate battle against Isis, al-Qaida and other terrorist networks, as well as a generational struggle against radical jihadism.
“We face a choice between fear and resolve. Anita’s murder should deepen our resolve. American must lead the world to meet this threat.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, offered his “deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and injured”.
In Bamako on Friday, heavily armed attackers stormed the luxury hotel and took hostage 180 people, among them diplomats, a celebrated Guinean singer and air crew members from France and Turkey, as well as Indian and Chinese nationals.
Local and international special forces troops, including Americans, later freed most of the hostages and killed two of the assailants. On Saturday, Malian authorities said that three suspects remained on the loose.
Datar is believed to be the only US citizen to have died in the attack, from which about “a dozen” Americans were rescued, according to US State Department spokesman John Kirby.
“We are devastated that Anita is gone,” Datar’s family said in a statement. “It’s unbelievable to us that she has been killed in this senseless act of violence and terrorism.”
Datar was a senior manager at Palladium, a Washington-based international development organization for which she specialized in public health, family planning and HIV prevention.
My heart breaks thinking of the burden [her son] will bear on his small shoulders and the courage he will have to show
In a statement, Palladium said it was “deeply saddened” and added: “Ms Datar was in Mali along with two colleagues, both of whom were safely evacuated from the hotel.”
Datar worked in several countries across Africa, including Kenya and Nigeria, according to her profile, as well as several countries in South America and Asia.
“Anita was one of the kindest and most generous people we know. She loved her family and her work tremendously. Everything she did in her life she did to help others – as a mother, public health expert, daughter, sister and friend,” the family said in the statement.
“And while we are angry and saddened that she has been killed, we know that she would want to promote education and healthcare to prevent violence and poverty at home and abroad, not intolerance.”
The family added that of all of her achievements, Datar was “most proud of her son”. Her Facebook page is filled with pictures of the boy, smiling with his mother in her profile picture and posing against a clay wall in her cover photo. Datar also shared photos of her son dressing up as a storm trooper for Halloween and holding his backpack before his first day of school.
Datar was born in Massachusetts and grew up in New Jersey, where she graduated from Rutgers University in New Brunswick with a degree in psychology, according to LinkedIn. In her early 20s, Datar spent two years volunteering for the Peace Corps in Senegal, where she worked to improve rural communities’ access to public health services.
Hillary Clinton outlines her proposed policy against Isis and other terrorist groups this week. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesDatar later earned master’s degrees in public health and public administration from Columbia University in New York. She was also a founding board member ofTulalens, a nonprofit group aimed at improving public health education for poor women.
On Friday, President Obama condemned the Mali attack from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, calling it another example of “appalling” and “barbaric” jihadist violence against “innocent people who had everything to live for”.
“The terrorists began ruthlessly killing people and taking hostages,” Obama said. “On behalf of the American people I want to extend our deepest condolences to the people of Mali and the victims’ families, including at least one American.”
On Saturday, Obama said the Mali attack only fortified the resolve of the US and its allies to eradicate militants whose goal is to spread terror.
“We will continue to root out terrorist networks,” Obama told a meeting of business executives. “We will not allow these killers to have a safe haven.“