Two US special forces troops assisted in the rescue of six Americans from a luxury hotel in the Malian capital Friday after suspected Islamist gunmen stormed the site, US officials said.
The two US troops happened to be at the nearby US embassy in Bamako for meetings when the hostage crisis erupted, said Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM).
One of them went to a joint operations center to provide "command and control" assistance, while the other dashed to the Radisson Blu hotel and helped "move personnel out to a secure location."
"The Malians are very much in the lead," Falvo stressed.
US military officials earlier said about 25 US troops were in Bamako. Falvo said that, in fact, 26 US troops were based throughout Mali, with 22 of them in Bamako.
"Quite honestly, it was at the right place at the right time where they were able to offer assistance," Falvo said. "I don't even know that they were armed."
The hostage crisis left at least 18 people dead, a week after the jihadist rampage in Paris that was claimed by the Islamic State group.
Gunmen entered the 190-room hotel compound in Bamako at around 0700 GMT in a car with diplomatic plates and automatic gunfire was heard from outside, security sources said.
"Just based on what's happened in the past, it's probably somebody that is associated with Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb," AFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez said.
"The Islamic State does not have that impact in the area."