Twelve killed in Mali ho­tel siege be­fore gov­ern­ment troops storm build­ing

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY AHAMADOU CISSE

Twelve peo­ple were killed, two of them for­eign­ers, in a hostage siege at a ho­tel in cen­tral Mali that ended early Satur­day when gov­ern­ment troops stormed the build­ing, the army said.

“There are 12 dead in all,” an army of­fi­cer told AFP af­ter the op­er­a­tion at the Ho­tel By­b­los in Se­vare, list­ing the fa­tal­i­ties as five “ter­ror­ists,” five sol­diers and two “white peo­ple,” whose iden­tity was be­ing checked.

The body of one of the for­eign vic­tims had lain in front of the ho- tel since Fri­day when the gun­men stormed the build­ing, the of­fi­cer said.

A source told AFP that “a num­ber of hostages” had been freed from the ho­tel, in­clud­ing five for­eign­ers, although their na­tion­al­i­ties were not spec­i­fied.

Lo­cated a few kilo­me­ters from the re­gional cap­i­tal Mopti, Se­vare is a key stag­ing post on the road to Mali’s desert north which fell to Is­lamic ex­trem­ists in 2012.

The U.N. peace­keep­ing mis­sion (MI­NUSMA) said in a state­ment Fri­day that “re­ports in­di­cate that a mem­ber of the in­ter­na­tional per- son­nel as­so­ci­ated with MI­NUSMA was killed in the at­tack.”

Sources said three South Africans, a French­man and a Ukrainian had been reg­is­tered at the ho­tel at the time of the at­tack. A Rus­sian diplo­mat said a Rus­sian was among the hostages.

A source told AFP that a Rus­sian man “hid­den in­side the build­ing” had supplied “use­ful in­for­ma­tion” to Malian forces dur­ing the siege.

Gun­men had burst into the ho­tel at around 7 a.m. (0700 GMT) on Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment. At least one of the at­tack­ers was said to be wear­ing an ex­plo­sives belt.

Malian forces cor­doned off the area but their ef­forts to dis­lodge the at­tack­ers were com­pli­cated by the pres­ence of hostages.

There were ex­changes of fire through­out Fri­day and the army brought the siege to an end early Satur­day, with one source say­ing for­eign spe­cial forces were also in­volved.

The U.N. mis­sion said the ini­tial tar­get of the at­tack was a Malian mil­i­tary site.

“The at­tack­ers, who were pushed back by the Malian Armed Forces, then took refuge in a ho- tel,” MI­NUSMA said.

A spokesman for the Rus­sian em­bassy in Mali told the RIA Novosti agency that the Rus­sian hostage was an em­ployee of UTAir, an avi­a­tion com­pany that works with the U.N. peace­keep­ing mis­sion.

A Ukrainian hostage man­aged to es­cape from the ho­tel and said up to five gun­men had led the hostage-tak­ing in Se­vare, which lies 620 kilo­me­ters (385 miles) south of the cap­i­tal Ba­mako.

French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande said French cit­i­zens could also “pos­si­bly” be caught up in the at­tack.

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