Mali hotel siege: Three foreign hostages among 12 people killed in attack

Troops storm hotel in central town of Sevare, ending siege and freeing four foreigners who had hidden from gunmen in the building

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The Independent Online

Three foreign hostages were among at least 12 people killed during a hotel siege in central Mali, according to a Malian army spokesman.

The three were a South African, a Russian and a Ukrainian, the spokesman was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Another four foreign nationals - two South Africans, a Russian and a Ukrainian - who had been hiding inside the hotel were freed.

Troops stormed the Byblos Hotel in the town of Sevare, about 600km north of the capital Bamako, on Saturday morning, ending a siege that had lasted nearly 24 hours.

Lieutenant Colonel Diaran Koné, a spokesman for the ministry of defence, said that French and Malian troops were involved in the raid.

The four freed in the raid were UN contractors.

"MINUSMA is happy to announce that four contracted individuals have been picked up safe and sound. At no point were they discovered by the terrorists in the hotel. They were hiding," Radhia Achouri, a MINUSMA spokeswoman, said.

The siege began on Friday morning when armed men stormed the hotel, frequently used by UN workers and foreign staff. The Malian military subsequently surrounded the building.

Mr Koné said that four bodies - three hotel staff and one gunman - were recovered following the end of the siege, bringing the total death toll up to 12 people, according to the Associated Press.

Earlier reports said that five Malian troops, two gunmen and a UN contractor had been killed.

UN spokeswoman Achouri confirmed that a UN contractor was among the dead, but did not provide further details at that time.

The UN mission said that it had reinforced security at the local Sevare-Mopti airport in the wake of the attack.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but Mali's north fell under the control of jihadists in 2012.

They were ousted in 2013 by a French-led military offensive, but remnants of the group continue to stage attacks, although the area surrounding Sevare and Mopti, the heart of Mali's tourism industry, has largely been spared from attacks.

(Additional reporting by agencies)