Maryland Woman Killed in Mali Terror Attack

An American woman who lived in Takoma Park, Maryland, was killed in the terror attack Friday inside a hotel packed with foreigners in Mali's capital, State Department officials and family members say.

Anita Ashok Datar died in the attack that killed at least 20 people, officials said.

Datar, the mother of a young son, worked in global health and international development and devoted her life to service, her family wrote in a statement. She was 41, according to The Washington Post.

"Anita was one of the kindest and most generous people we know," her family said. "She loved her family and her work tremendously. Everything she did in her life she did to help others -- as a mother, public health expert, daughter, sister and friend." 

Datar worked in Washington, D.C. for Palladium Group, Inc., an international development firm, according to her LinkedIn page. She was a founding board member of the nonprofit Tulalens, which works to connect women in developing countries with health services.

She had served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal and earned degrees from Rutgers University and Columbia University. The Massachusetts native raised in New Jersey is survived by her son, parents, brother and friends around the world, her family said. 

"While we are angry and saddened that she has been killed, we know that she would want to promote education and health care to prevent violence and poverty at home and abroad, not intolerance," her family said.

The Radisson Blu hotel was stormed by Islamic extremists who killed at least 20 people and briefly took scores more people hostage. An al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group claimed credit for the attack, Reuters reported. NBC News could not immediately confirm that.

The Malian ambassador to the United States, Tiena Coulibaly, denounced the violence in his home country.

"Islam is peace. Mali is maybe 85, maybe 90, maybe 95 percent Muslims -- that is peaceful Muslims," he told News4. "What we want is the American people to know that, to understand that, and not make any confusion between the jihadists and the Muslims."

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