Tributes have been paid to an Israeli former research fellow at London’s Institute for Education killed in the terror attack on a hotel in Mali yesterday.

Shmuel Benalal was among 27 victims when Islamist gunman stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel, taking 170 hostages. The attack was claimed by an al-Qaeda affiliated group.

The 60-year-old educator had more than 25 years experience in development projects in education worldwide, acting as a consultant for countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America, and had written guidebooks on development of schools and integration of special needs students.

Benalal, who took up a role in Mali last month, was a researcher at UCL’s Institute for Education between 2000-1 and a member of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain. His association with the UK also extended to consulting on international education projects in this country.

In a statement, the father-of-three’s family said: “We are shocked and in pain. We hope all relevant bodies are working to bring him back to us as soon as possible.”

Gaby Blauer, the executive director of charity Manna UK, recalled how Benalal taught his son to ride a bicycle when the families were neighbours in Zur Hadasha in Israel 11 years ago.

He told the Jewish News: “He was a lovely person, modest and always helping others. He always had a smile on his face.”

UJIA chief executive Michael Wegier first met Benalal at a JCCA education seminar in the late 1990s and again through his involvement with the Mandel Jerusalem Fellows. “A wise and humane man,” he wrote on Facebook. “Such a terrible loss for his family and all who knew him.”