Mali siege death toll likely to rise


At least 12 people were killed during a nearly 24-hour siege of a hotel in central Mali seized by suspected Islamist gunmen that ended on Saturday as security forces stormed the building and released some of the United Nations workers trapped inside.  Four U.N. contractors were freed in the pre-dawn raid, but Mali’s U.N. peacekeeping operation MINUSMA said five people associated with the mission had died, while Malian officials counted three hostages dead.

MINUSMA peacekeepers stand guard in front of the governor's office in Kidal

Five soldiers and four gunmen, including one who officials said had been strapped with explosives, were also killed, a Defence Ministry spokesman said. The gunmen had seized the Byblos Hotel in the town of Sevare, around 600 km (375 miles) northeast of the West African nation’s capital Bamako, early on Friday and held off government troops who quickly surrounded the building.

The attack was the latest in what appears to be a growing campaign against Malian soldiers and U.N. personnel by remnants of an al Qaeda-linked insurgency and newly formed local Islamist groups.

Military spokesman Colonel Souleymane Maiga said the early suspicion was that the Massina Liberation Front, whose members are mainly drawn from central Mali’s ethnic Peul community, had carried out the attack

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