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Family members say Maryland woman killed in Mali worked to improve global health

Anita Datar, 41, of Takoma Park, was among the dead in a terror attack in Mali.
Anita Datar, 41, of Takoma Park, was among the dead in a terror attack in Mali.(Handout / Baltimore Sun)

A 41-year-old woman from Takoma Park was killed in Friday's terror attack on a hotel in Mali.

The State Department confirmed Anita Datar was among at least 20 killed in the attack in a hotel in Mali's capital — the only American known to have died in the violence.

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In a statement, family members say Datar's life was devoted to helping others. The family said she was a senior manager at Palladium International Development and the mother of a young son.

The family said everything Datar did, "she did to help others - as a mother, public health expert, daughter, sister and friend."

But of "all her accomplishments," it said, "she was most proud of her son."

Heavily armed Islamic extremists seized dozens of hostages at a Radisson hotel, but Malian troops, backed by U.S. and French special forces, swarmed in to retake the building and free many of the terrified captives. Datar was among at least 20 killed, along with two gunmen during the more than seven-hour siege, a Malian military commander said.

An extremist group led by former al-Qaida commander Moktar Belmoktar claimed responsibility for the attack in the former French colony, and many in France saw it as a new assault on their country's interests a week after the Paris attacks.

President Barack Obama called the attack a reminder of the "scourge of terrorism" and said its barbaric nature only "stiffens our resolve to meet this challenge."

"This is a terrible tragedy. I join the people of Maryland and the nation in expressing my deepest condolences to Ms. Datar's family and loved ones, in particular her son," U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said in a statement Saturday. "Ms. Datar dedicated her life to improving the conditions of others all around the world. Her humanitarian service stands in stark contrast to dark actions of the attackers who perpetrated this senseless violence.

"Ms. Datar embodied and displayed the best of American values. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and all those affected by this terrible terrorist attack."

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