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Sister City Support For Bamako, Mali

An extremist group led by a former al-Qaida commander is claiming responsibility for an attack on a hotel in Bamako, Mali, in sub-Saharan West Africa.

The Associated Press reports that Islamic extremists seized dozens of hostages Friday, but Malian troops, backed by U.S. and French Special Forces, freed many of them.

Councilmember Carolee Conklin is President of Rochester’s Sister Cities program, reminding us of the link to Bamako.

"We've had exchanges over the years, with medical supplies, with people going back and forth visiting, cultural exchanges. The very tenet of sister cities is a people to people relationship."

The AP says at least 20 people, including one American, were killed along with two gunmen.

"You know, it's also a Muslim community. This religious warfare, I'm not sure it's in the name of religion at all," said Conklin.

Niger River Sunset - Bamako, Mali by Lynda Howland
Credit Lynda Howland/City of Rochester
Niger River Sunset - Bamako, Mali by Lynda Howland

Walter Cooper established Bamako as Rochester’s fifth Sister City in 1975.

"Because I was a firm believer - even in the '60s - that the world was moving toward a global economy, and I think it's imperative that our students have some feeling for the world which they will inherit, and which they will be competitive in."

Cooper wishes the program and ties to Mali were more visible today.

"I think the Sister Cities committee, particularly the Teenage Diplomat program, is very essential in getting students in our schools familiar with people from all over the world. Those students will be competing against former students from these countries whenever they get out in their professions."

Cooper told WXXI he still has friends in Mali from his visits in the 1980s

"If we're to ever have peace in the world, people have to get to know people from their segments of the world and try to understand them, interact with them, know who they are as human beings and as being racially or ethnically different."

He celebrates the culture.

"There's just beautiful art in a country like Mali. They have their historical great poets and musicians."

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren released a statement to WXXI saying that "the terror attack in Mali, Africa hit Rochester very close to home, because Bamako has been our Sister City for forty years."

She added, “Terrorism has become an increasingly frequent reality in our world, one that is far too easy to detach ourselves from when it occurs far away from our city.”

The Mayor says “We have reached out to the Governor of Bamako, along with our friends and counterparts, to relay our support. All our thoughts and prayers are with the people of the city of Bamako.”

International Sister Cities of Rochester President and Councilmember Carolee Conklin, President Loretta Scott, City Council and myself as Mayor, call on all Rochesterians to keep those killed and the many remaining hostages in your thoughts and prayers,” she said.

Mali's U.S. Embassy

Brad Smith won the Cortland County (NY) spelling bee as a seventh grader from Homer High, in a championship broadcast live on local radio. Brad’s been trying to relive the “magnificent” (winning word) moment ever since.
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