Residents in Malian town of Sevare reported that gunmen attacked at least two hotels, killed four people and exchanged fire with troops around the building, residents are currently hiding in their homes.
The body of a caucasian man was visible at the entrance of one of the hotels, in addition to two Malian soldiers. Military spokesman Souleymane Dembele said in a text message.
"We heard someone shouting into a loudhailer that everyone should go inside. Then we heard machine guns," one resident said.
"People in the area are hiding in their houses. The attackers are still inside the hotel," the resident of the town of Sevare, who asked his name be omitted said.
"I see the smoke from the hotel. There are exchanges of gunfire."
Sevare has an air force base and UN peacekeepers are in the town. The attackers are believed to be still inside the hotels, holding several hostages inside, according to Dembele.
Russian pilots with the UN peacekeeping mission staying at the hotels were reportedly kidnapped, however, the Russian embassy in Mali denied the allegations.
"These reports are not true. We do not know where this information could have come from," Russia's TASS news agency reported the embassy as saying.
Residents claim the gunmen specifically targeted the UN peacekeepers, "Now the Malian army is here. The soldiers are surrounding the Byblos hotel but we don't know why," one resident said.
A Malian group with links to Al Qaeda, ‘Ansar Dine’, has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on UN peacekeepers and the Malian army in Bamako and areas near the Ivory Coast and Mauritania borders.
Sevare is about 600km (370 miles) north-west of the capital, Bamako, Sevare is considered the trading hub of Mali that directly serves the historic riverside city of Mopti.