Africa: Mali Hostages Held After Jihadist’s Killed Eight
By BABA AHMED, August 7, 2015. Associated Press.
‘On Friday, smoke could be seen coming from the area near the hotel, according to a resident who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of his safety. “This morning as I was leaving for work I heard shots and saw smoke coming from the Hotel Debo. The area is surrounded by soldiers who told us to return to our homes,” he said. Hotel Debo sits next to the Byblos hotel and earlier reports from officials and residents indicated the fighting may have begun at the Debo.’
BAMAKO, Mali. Jihadists stormed a hotel hosting United Nations staff in central Mali on Friday, seizing hostages and killing at least five Malian soldiers and a U.N. contractor in one of the most brazen attacks in months, the government said.
Officials said at least two militants were also killed in the fighting.
Mali’s army continued to surround the Hotel Byblos in Sevare about 600 kilometers (375 miles) north of Bamako, battling militants into the evening.
The government said forces detained seven suspected militants.
Radhia Achouri, spokeswoman for the U.N. mission in Mali, confirmed a contractor was killed in the attack, without providing more details.
Defense Ministry adviser Lt. Col. Diarran Kone said that at least six people were being held inside the hotel.
“The operation to free the hostages is ongoing,” he said.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry issued a statement based on information from its embassy in Algeria saying that the goal of the attackers was believed to be to take hostages from among the foreign citizens living in the hotel.
“According to the information available, a Ukrainian citizen may be among those foreign citizens taken hostage. In addition, three citizens of South Africa and a French citizen may be held hostage,” it said.
Nelson Kgwete, a spokesman for South Africa’s foreign ministry, said South African diplomats in Mali had been instructed to “liaise with the authorities in the region where the incident took place” to ascertain whether South African citizens were caught up in the attack.
“We are waiting for a report from our embassy,” Kgwete told The Associated Press.
Lynn Berry, Moscow; Christopher Torchia, Johannesburg contributed to this report.
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