Bamako: The popular nightspot in the heart of Bamako struck by a deadly March 7 jihadist attack reopened Saturday amid significantly heightened security in Mali`s bustling capital.
Three Malians, a French national and a Belgian were killed in the assault by heavily-armed gunmen, who are thought to have targeted "La Terrace" restaurant and bar as being a popular hangout for foreigners in the West African country.
Bamako has long been considered a safe and stable city, but after jihadist militia al-Murabitoun claimed responsibility for the strike, accessing "La Terrace" and the nightlife neighbourhood it is a part of requires body searches and metal scans by security guards.
"I reopened the restaurant in honour of those who died," Wahib Assy, the 70-year-old "La Terrace" owner, told AFP.
He said he has enlisted both police support and private guards to reinforce security in the establishment that also features a bar and dance floor.
Al-Murabitoun, led by Algerian radical Mokhtar Belmokhtar, is one of the jihadist militias that had seized control of northern Mali before being routed into the barren Sahel by a French-led military intervention in 2013.
But with fears growing that far-flung extremist leaders may want to dispatch attackers into urban zones to stage surprise strikes, formerly serene Malian and foreign residents of Bamako are stepping out with greater caution.
Outside "La Terrace," the street usually teeming with weekend traffic was fluid as Saturday night eased into Sunday morning.
Inside, meantime, the typically packed nightclub hosted a crowd of only about 30 people -- roughly two-thirds of whom were foreigners.
"I could have been one of the victims, but I came back and will keep returning," said one European national who refused to give his name, adding he had been present on the night of the attack.
"You cannot know about what happened and not be scared," admitted a Malian calling herself Fatou, who nevertheless said people needed to keep living their lives despite the fear extremists inspire.
"La Terrace" owner Assy agreed: "Activities will continue in Mali. You can`t stop it... I`m going to battle. I have nearly 30 employees (with) families to feed."
According to a source close to the inquiry, investigators are seeking a dozen suspects identified as "veritable organised terrorists," including a Russo-Malian.
A suspect believed to have taken part in the attack was killed during a police assault on his home in Bamako on Friday, offical and security sources said.