Mali army frees hostages after hotel siege ends with 12 dead

One South African national among the dead.
Mali’s army rescued four hostages from a hotel where they had been held by armed Islamist militants since Friday in an attack that left 12 people dead, the defence ministry said.

The military launched an operation early Saturday to end the siege at the hotel Le Byblos in the central town of Sevare, Colonel Diarran Kone, a spokesman for the defense ministry said by phone.

“The operation ended at 5 a.m.,” Kone said from the capital Bamako. He said the army is making “a systematic search” of the hotel.

Three hotel guests were among the dead, which also included one of the attackers, Kone said.

The United Nations later said that five UN-associated personnel were killed in the attack. UN officials often stay at the hotel, Mali’s government said on Friday.

The UN officials killed include a Malian national, who was a driver for the UN mission’s subcontracting company, a Nepalese national, a South African citizen and two Ukrainian nationals, the UN said in an e-mailed statement. An investigation is underway to establish how they died, it said.

Four other UN staff were rescued by the Malian army, the UN added. The rescued, who include two South African nationals, a Russian and a Ukrainian national, hid in the hotel and were not detected by the attackers, it said. They will now be transferred to Bamako.

The South African national killed was 38 and “attached to an aviation company rendering services to the UN contingent in Mali,” Nelson Kgwete, a spokesman for the nation’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation, said on Twitter.

Security Forces

The siege began following an attack outside a military site in Sevare by Islamist militants who were pushed back by security forces and fled to Le Byblos hotel, the UN mission in Mali, known as Minusma, said. Sevare is about 470 kilometers (293 miles) northeast of Bamako.

Mali’s governent said that five military personnel and two attackers died on Friday in the fighting. The army arrested seven suspected militants.

Mali was plunged into violence after a military coup in March 2012 left a power vacuum and allowed Islamist militants to join with separatists and seize northern areas of the country. While French and UN forces pushed the militants out of most of those strongholds in 2013, the government is struggling to regain authority there.

The insurgents have carried out a series of attacks outside their main bases in Mali’s north this year, targeting south and central parts of the country. In March, a raid at a restaurant popular with foreigners in Bamako killed five people.

©2015 Bloomberg News

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