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Up To 170 Taken Hostage In Hotel In Capital Of Mali

terrorism-headlines

An unknown number of gunman who appear to be linked to the jihadists that have plagued the African nation for several years now have taken up to 170 people hostage at a Raddison Blu hotel in Mali’s capital city:

BAMAKO, Mali — Gunmen stormed a Radisson Blu hotel on Friday morning in Bamako, the capital of the West African nation of Mali, seizing scores of hostages and killing at least three people.

An unknown number of gunmen, perhaps four or five, had taken “about 100 hostages” at the beginning of the siege, said Gen. Didier Dacko of the Malian Army.

It was unclear how many hostages remained inside, he said, adding that soldiers had sealed the perimeter and were now “inside looking for the terrorists.”

Several dozen hostages, many of them crying – women, children and older people – had begun streaming out of the hotel after hiding in their rooms, said Amadou Sidibé, a local reporter at the scene. Two members of the Malian security forces were wounded by shots fired from the seventh floor of the hotel, he added.

Col. Maj. Salif Traoré, the minister of security and civil protection, said the military had evacuated around 30 people from the hotel and taken them to a gymnasium nearby. The hotel had as many as 170 guests and staff members at the time of the siege.

Northern Mali fell under the control of Islamist militants in 2012. A French-led offensive ousted them in 2013, but remnants of the group have staged a number of attacks on United Nations peacekeepers and Malian forces.

The hotel is a popular place for foreigners to stay in Bamako, a city with a population approaching two million, and French and American citizens were among those taken hostage. Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, reported that “numerous” Chinese tourists were staying at the hotel as well.

Kassim Traoré, a Malian journalist who was in a building about 50 meters, or 160 feet, from the Radisson, said the attackers told hostages to recite a declaration of Muslim faith as a way separating Muslims from non-Muslims.

Those who could recite the declaration, the Shahada, were allowed to leave the hotel. The Shabab, a Qaeda affiliate in East Africa, used a similar approach in the attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in 2013.

Some of those who left, which included people from Mali and foreigners, were not wearing any clothes as they were taken to a police station.

“We were just evacuated from the hotel by security forces, I know that there are a lot of people inside right now,” one hostage who made their way to safety toldFrance24 television. “I saw bodies in the lobby. What is happening right now is really horrible.”

“I was hidden in my room barely a couple minutes, a couple seconds ago and someone shouted, telling us to get out, my door was smashed open, the security forces arrived,” he hostage added.

Another hostage of French nationality, who did not want to be named, told a friend in Bamako that a group of people was trapped on the roof of the hotel, along with the body of one person who had died in the attack. The hostage told the friend that the French consulate had told hostages by text message to stay put and wait for a military assault.

Kamissoko Lassine, the chief pastry chef of the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, said that two armed men arrived at the hotel between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.

“They were driving a vehicle with diplomatic plates,” he said. “You know how easy that is at the hotel? The guardians just lifted the barrier.”

“They opened fire and wounded the guard at the front,” said Mr. Lassine, who said he was able to slip out a back door and make it home safely. “They took the hotel hostage and moved people into a big hall.”

Xinhua reported that a Chinese guest, whom it identified only as Mr. Chen, said that he heard several gunshots, and that smoke started to appear in the corridor outside his room. He tried to reach the front desk but no one answered, Mr. Chen told Xinhua through WeChat, a popular messaging service.

The Rezidor Hotel Group, the operator of the Radisson Blu Hotel Bamako, said it was in contact with the local authorities, and the United States Embassy said it was aware of the situation and issued a warning to staff members and American citizens to shelter in place.

The BBC is reporting that Malian forces entered the hotel, but the status of the standoff remains unknown:

Malian special forces have entered the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, to end a siege by gunmen who had been holding 170 people hostage.

The gunmen stormed the US-owned hotel, which is popular with foreign businesses and airline crews, shooting and shouting “God is great!” in Arabic.

Malian state TV is reporting that 80 people have now been freed.

At least three people are reported to have been killed in the siege that started around 07:00 GMT.

Air France says 12 of its crew have been successfully freed in the rescue operation.

Among the other guests staying at the hotel are six Turkish Airlines staff, 20 Indian nationals and reports of up to 10 Chinese citizens.

The UN peacekeeping force said it was supporting the operation as Malian special forces are reported to be freeing hostages “floor by floor”.

An Ivorian guest said she and six other people were escorted out by security forces as the gunmen rushed “toward the fifth or sixth floor”.

“I think they are still there. I’ve left the hotel and I don’t know where to go. I’m tired and in a state of shock,” Monique Kouame Affoue Ekonde told the AP news agency.

Earlier, a security source told Reuters that some hostages who were able to recite verses of the Koran were being freed.

As noted above, Mali has been ground for Islamist terror and insurgent group attacks for several years now, most especially in the years since the collapse of the central government in Libya seems to have led to an expansion of insurgent activity throughout other parts of Northern and Central Africa, in no small part because of trafficking in arms from the vast arsenal once kept by the Gadhafi regime. At one point, the situation in Mali became serious enough that France made the decision to send troops to assist the government of its former colony in the fight against a newly aggressive Islamist force in the North. That French force was largely successful in holding off an immediate collapse in Mali, but the insurgents have remained as much of a problem in Mali as other groups have become in nations like Nigeria and Kenya. Now, it appears that they have been able to strike inside the Malian capital at a target full of foreigners. One interesting part of this report, of course, is the fact that the gunmen seem to have arrived at the hotel in a car with diplomatic tags, which apparently allowed them to easily bypass hotel security. I haven’t seen any reports at all regarding what nation’s diplomatic tags may have been on the car in question, whether those tags were in fact genuine, or how the militants got their hands on the vehicle. The most likely explanation, of course, is that the car or the tags, or both, were stolen, but that certainly seems like an important detail that will need to be figured out.

As for the standoff itself, reports this morning remain sketchy. NBC News has passed on information from American Embassy personnel in Europe that indicate that there may be American government personnel stationed at the hotel, for example, and the hotel is apparently one used frequently by Air France employees and employees of other French companies. It’s not clear if the hotel was specifically targeted for this reason, or simply because it was an accessible, soft, target.

More details as they become available, but this appears to be yet another example of how Central Africa is quickly becoming a hotbed of Jihadist terrorism and, potentially, another part of the world we will need to start paying attention to whether we like it or not.

Update: NBC News correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin has said that up to 80 of the people that were in the hotel when the standoff began are free:

The BBC, meanwhile, has more information regarding the number of people in the hotel and the apparent involvement of American and Italian special forces in efforts to end the situation:

I haven’t found anything on line to link to just yet, but NBC News is reporting that there was a United Nations sponsored conference on peacekeeping in Mali taking place at the hotel today, which is why there were representatives from the U.S. and Italy present, and that their role in the crisis appears to be limited to helping people to escape. Indeed, it’s not even clear if these personnel were armed in any way or wearing uniforms.

Update #2: There are some reports that the siege is over, but CNN is still reporting that it may still be ongoing and that there are people dead from the siege:

 Update #3: Most media outlets now seem to be reporting that the siege has ended, but there are varying reports about the aftermath. There are reports of eighteen, twenty, to up to twenty-seven people dead. Whether this includes just hostages or also includes some or all of the gunmen is not clear. Meanwhile, an al Qaeda linked group that has been staging attacks in northern Mali over the past several years has claimed responsibility for this attack. If true, this attack far to the south of where the group normally operates could indicate a significant up-tick in the problems in Mali.

Update #4 Cnn is now reporting that while the hostage situation has been diffused, the gunmen are still holed up somewhere in the hotel, so this apparently isn’t completely over just yet.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. James Pearce says:

    Here’s hoping the Malian authorities are somewhat more competent than the Nigerian forces were during Westgate. If the Radisson is still standing when they’re done, we’ll know if that was the case.

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  2. Lounsbury says:

    West Africa mate, WEST Africa.

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  3. Lounsbury says:

    @James Pearce:
    Jaysus it’s not F**king Nigeria you geographically incompetent provincials, it’s fucking f**king KENYA, the other side of the bloody continent.

    Bloody hell.

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  4. Lounsbury says:

    @James Pearce:
    Jaysus it’s not bloody Nigeria you geographically incompetent provincials, it’s bloody KENYA, the other side of the bloody continent.

    Bloody hell.

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  5. Yes, the Westgage attack was in Kenya

    But in James’s defense it’s worth noting that there have been major attacks in Nigeria this year.

    In one attack, thousands died in a Boko Haram attack that seems to have lasted for days.

    In another 145 people were killed in September.

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  6. Jack says:

    More Christian, right wing violence. When will it stop. Oh, wait….

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  7. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:
    What in the fwck does that have to do with this? Do you think Nigeria is a christian nation?
    Here in the US…a christian nation…god fearing right-wingers are twice as likely to kill you as Muslims, at least since 9.11.
    And then there are the little kids with guns that fools like you left lying around.
    Everyday in this christian nation 297 people die from guns. That means in the week since the Paris terror attacks, which killed 130, over 2000 Americans have died from gunshots.
    So to your question; when will the right-wing christian violence end???

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  8. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin: I’d say you were butt hurt, but that is a constant state with you. Literally.

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  9. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Everyday in this christian nation 297 people die from guns. That means in the week since the Paris terror attacks, which killed 130, over 2000 Americans have died from gunshots.

    Obviously you went the Hillary Clinton school of false statistics.

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  10. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:
    Again you go right to gay sex. You need to come out of whatever closet you are in. It’s OK for you to have feelings for men. Just stop obsessing over me, because I like women.

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  11. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin: It’s not gay sex to which I am referring. Your Mastiff get’s more than his fill.

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  12. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Everyday in this christian nation 297 people die from guns.

    297 people per day die from guns. That would be 108,405 people per year. You are a fwcking liar true to Hillary Clinton and the Democrat cause.

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  13. James Pearce says:

    @Lounsbury: Let that confirm all your suspicions about dumb Americans if you want, dude. It’s early out here in the Rockies, far far away from either Kenya or Nigeria.

    But when I look at pictures of the Westgate mall, it looks like the one down the street. Maybe, geographical mistakes aside, I’m not really so provincial.

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  14. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Lounsbury:

    Dude, there was an attack in Nigeria two days ago, and a social media campaign to post the Westgate attacks to drown out the Paris attacks (one of the more bizarre SM campaigns). It can be an honest mistake. The vituperation and invective in your comment isn’t called for.

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  15. James Pearce says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    It can be an honest mistake.

    It was. Why did I think Nairobi was in Nigeria? Alliteration.

    Shoulda used tha Google!

    (Admittedly, now I’m going, “Kenya. Of course!”)

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  16. Jc says:

    Africa is riddled with terrorists, but there is no oil there, so we generally avoid getting involved.

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  17. grumpy realist says:

    @Jc: Uh, wut? Haven’t you been keeping up on Nigeria and the whole theft-of-oil from the pipes in the Delta? (Some would say that the locals are simply re-distributing what should be theirs in the first place, but the percentage of Nigerian oil that manages to not make it to the world market is impressive.)

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  18. grumpy realist says:

    Supposedly the siege has ended.

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  19. Bill Lefrak says:

    You have to give the French some credit. Someone had to step into the vacuum left by the U.S.’s staggeringly fast decline under Obama. The French certainly appear to be the tip of that spear. Mali a couple of years ago was the first indication.

    Hollande was a virtual parody of an airheaded socialist when he first took office. But apparently he’s been jarred so much into reality that he’s now a real grown up. First the Mali operation. Now the response to the Paris atrocities. He’s acting like a completely sentient and sober adult.

    The overall trend already is set and decades of dopey leftism won’t be able easily to be overcome. There’s also the problem with the rest of PC-addled Europe and especially Belgium and Britain. But at least the French right now appear girded for a hard fight. Alas, keep in mind less than a decade after 9/11 the U.S. population went back into full retard mode and elected Obama of all people to the highest political office in the world. Maybe somehow Paris will be the tipping point that NYC and D.C. weren’t. We only can hope.

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  20. Clay Bowers says:

    @C. Clavin:

    More nonsense….Take the day off. You don’t have to be on here 24/7. Get out in the real world and you might actually make a friend.

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  21. Jc says:

    @grumpy realist:

    They have oil. But in comparison to the ME it is nothing. Nigeria’s reserves are 4.56% of the oil reserves of the big ME countries and only 14% of Saudi proven reserves. We get 20% of imported oil from the Persian Gulf. I am just saying, that if the ME was like Africa, as far as resources are concerned, we would have treated them as such. Which is basically, we do not care. Sure we send aid, but compare how much we are involved with ME politics/governance etc…Africa and their multitude of issues and concerns are really something we do not get involved in.

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  22. Jc says:

    @Bill Lefrak:

    Maybe somehow Paris will be the tipping point that NYC and D.C. weren’t. We only can hope.

    are you implying our response to 9/11 was inadequate? What are you implying?

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  23. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: Here in the US…a christian nation…god fearing right-wingers are twice as likely to kill you as Muslims, at least since 9.11.

    I busted you on that lie the other day, Cliffy. Even when you set the goalpost just AFTER Muslims killed 3,000 in one day.

    What does it take to get you to stop lying?

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  24. Jeremy R says:

    @Bill Lefrak:

    You have to give the French some credit. Someone had to step into the vacuum left by the U.S.’s staggeringly fast decline under Obama. The French certainly appear to be the tip of that spear. Mali a couple of years ago was the first indication.

    The US has had special forces in Mali for years, has been providing intelligence and logistics (ex: aerial refueling for their planes) support for the French, and has been assisting in transporting troops from neighboring African nations. This is all despite US law preventing direct aid to the country:

    (WaPo – April, 2013) Pentagon deploys small number of troops to war-torn Mali

    The Obama administration has been prohibited by U.S. law from giving military aid to Mali since March 2012, when its democratically elected president was ousted in a coup. U.S. officials said they are legally permitted, however, to help French troops and forces from other African countries fighting in Mali.

    Since the coup, there have been signs that some U.S. Special Operations forces have been deployed to Mali on undeclared missions. In April 2012, three U.S. soldiers were killed in a mysterious car crash in Bamako.

    Last month, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) suggested that U.S. commandos were “taking action” in Mali. At a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Kline asked Adm. William H. McRaven, the head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, whether his troops were coordinating their efforts with the French military.

    “It seems to me that it might be a little awkward when you have French special operating forces taking action and presumably some of your forces taking action,” Kline said. “Otherwise, you’re going to be shooting each other.”

    McRaven replied that U.S. troops were working closely with the French in Mali but did not elaborate on their mission.

    “There is very close coordination on the ground,” he said. “Tactically, of course, the U.S. forces and the French forces and the African forces that are there in Mali on the ground, there are tactical communications going on day in and day out so that we de-conflict any movement.”

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  25. C. Clavin says:

    @Clay Bowers:
    Yeah…I care what bigots like you think.

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  26. Lounsbury says:

    Mistaking KENYA for NIGERIA is not excusable just because an utterly unrelated Nigeria event occurred.

    It’s like mistaking Seattle Washington for Washington DC.

    You’re a bloody ignorant idiot to do so.

    Although a banal one instead of nasty religious bigotted one so that does put one a moral step up from the other ignorant idiots commenting.

    This quite aside mistaking West Africa for Central Africa….

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  27. Ben Wolf says:

    @Lounsbury: Aren’t you the giy who thought ketchup was a vegetable?

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  28. James Pearce says:

    @Lounsbury:

    Mistaking KENYA for NIGERIA is not excusable just because an utterly unrelated Nigeria event occurred.

    If you can’t forgive some confusion on African states, maybe you could get over it?

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  29. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    I know you are scared of the brown women and children…but that is no reason to project your issues on others…it won’t help you be less scared.
    Did you read about George Takei making a fool of you?
    Just like Benghazi did.

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  30. Guarneri says:

    NEWS ITEM: Secretary of State John Kerry declares Al Qaeda neutralized.

    In other news, a Mali hotel was overrun by Al Qaeda terrorists today. Also, Secy Kerry was hastily disinvited as the guest expert on radio 670 The Score’s Fantasy Football pick show. Replacing him will be “Fred from Berwyn,” who simply describes himself as long time first time……..

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  31. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: You really are a delusional little liar, Cliffy. Nothing Mr. Takei said contradicted anything I said. And that list of “right wing extremists” you love to cite is totally bogus — one of the examples was an anti-capitalist Communist.

    Why don’t you spend a little time finding a fresh lie to peddle? That one’s gone stale.

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  32. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    He contradicted everything you said.
    At least the Mayor of Roanoke realized what a douche he was being and retracted his comment and apologized.
    Way classier that a run of the mill bigot like you.

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  33. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Little privileged white boy suggesting anyone not like him should go to internment camps.
    What a f’ing coward.

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  34. robz says:

    A pretty good review of the refugee security issue from Alex Nowrasteh at Cato:

    http://www.cato.org/blog/syrian-refugees-dont-pose-serious-security-threat

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  35. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    We could push the start date back to 1860 of you want some really big numbers.

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  36. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: Cliffy, I never said that the Japanese Americans should have been rounded up, nor did I say that about the Syrians. I noted that the Japanese-Americans who FDR interned did NOT turn traitor, but ended up quite loyal to the US despite their mistreatment (again, as directed by Democratic hero and legend FDR).

    Now you have three choices, Cliffy.

    1) Man up and admit you were wrong.

    2) Go and find this comment where I allegedly said what I absolutely deny saying, and prove yourself right.

    3) Run away and hide and pretend you never said anything on this thread.

    Judging on your past performance, I expect you’ll take the fourth option: keep insisting that I said that, but offer no proof whatsoever to back up your slanderous claims. But I can hope, can’t I?

    Here’s the comment in question, Cliffy.
    And let me repeat the concluding paragraph, where I predicted your lies:

    Let me head off Cliffy’s inevitable and all-too-predictable pants-wetting and say no, I am not advocating that we persecute Muslims wholesale. But I am challenging the notion that mistreatment by the US government does not automatically make the subjects rabidly anti-American, because history does not bear that out.

    Cliffy, think about that. I predicted you would lie about what I said, and I predicted exactly how you’d lie about it, and you still did it. Just how effing stupid are you that that could happen?

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  37. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Grewgills: Hell, let’s Godwin it: Since 1946, Germany’s been OK for Jews.

    I see Cliffy’s “since 9/11” as a really, really stupid version of “other than that, Mrs. Llincoln, how did you like the play?”: or “other than that, Mrs. Kennedy, how was Dallas?”

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  38. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    The collective IQ for any thread where both C. Claven and Jenos appear seems to drop by one or two standards of deviation. I wish we could do something about that.

    Lonsdale’s rant about geographic illiteracy is simply the little icing flowers on the cake.

    Get over yourselves! Cheeze!

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  39. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: I’ll stop calling him a liar when he stops lying about me. That isn’t too unreasonable, is it?

    But on topic… this tragedy had NOTHING to do with Islam. NOTHING. Never mind that the attackers were raised Muslim, proclaim themselves Muslim, declare that their attacks are fully within the tenets of Islam, and cite Koranic scripture which reinforces those statements — it has NOTHING to do with Islam. We have the word of plenty of non-Muslims to back that up.

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  40. bill says:

    i just hope it’s not more “workplace violence due to lax gun control”…said no sane person ever while covering the sheetheads.
    maybe we should invite them here so they too can enjoy the spoils of freedom? lol, dolts.

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  41. bill says:

    oh, while we’re all piling on about how “fascist” republicans are when it comes to allowing more muslim “refugees”- would y’all stop demanding extensive background checks on American gun buyers? if you can’t see the irony, i can’t help you.

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  42. Jenos Idanian says:

    @bill: I observed earlier that both sides are essentially arguing “why can’t we treat these refugees like you want to treat gun owners?” You made me want to repeat it.

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