Seige ends in Malian hotels, hostages freed

Malian and French forces raid the seized hotels in Mali’s Sevare, free four hostages

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

UN peacekeepers in Mali

At least two hotels under siege by militants were raided by Malian and French forces on Saturday, freeing all hostages inside. Said hotels are frequently used by UN personnel and peacekeepers in Mali’s Sevare.

Ukrainian and Russian citizens were among the freed hostages from Babylos Hotel.

"It seems to be over and it has ended well," said Colonel Diaran Koné, Malian defense ministry spokesman. "We freed the four hostages. But unfortunately we also found three bodies at the site."

Kone did not give the nationalities of the freed hostages or the deceased ones. The attackers remained inside the hotel with the hostages overnight. French and South African nationals were staying at the attacked hotel, according to Malian military sources.

Sevare is about 600km (370 miles) north-west of the capital, and is considered the trading hub of Mali, that directly serves the historic riverside city of Mopti.

At least six people died on Friday when a group of gunmen on motorcycles attacked the two hotels used by UN peacekeepers, few more were held hostage but later freed on Saturday by French backed Malian forces.

The overall deathtoll of the attacks have recently risen to 12, "The death toll has increased to 12 dead - five soldiers, four terrorists and three hostages. The nationalities have not yet been specified. We are waiting for details from (the United Nations mission)," Choguel Kokala Maiga said. The Malian government puts the deathtoll at 9.

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 the areas near the Ivory Coast and Mauritania borders in the past. Sevare’s residents claim the militants specifically target UN personnel. Three attackers were also killed, including one who was strapped with explosives.

The Malian army, backed with French military aid, was successful at largely driving the insurgency out of its many strongholds in Mali’s northern deserts.

The French operation in Mali, dubbed ‘Operation Burkhane’, saw Paris deploy thousands of troops towards “counter terrorism” military efforts, that started earlier this year.

TRTWorld and agencies