BAMAKO, Mali – (AA) Four UN workers who had been taken hostage by militants at a hotel in central Mali were freed on Saturday following a deadly standoff with security forces, according to a Defense Ministry official and a UN spokesperson.
At least 12 people were killed in the standoff, which began on Friday at the Byblos Hotel in the town Sevare, located some 600 kilometers north of capital Bamako.
According to local military sources, the casualties included five Malian soldiers, three hotel employees, three of the hostage-takers and a UN contractor.
A local diplomatic source told Anadolu Agency that the Byblos Hotel is known for frequently hosting UN personnel.
The same source said that Ukrainian pilots working for MINUSMA (the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) had been among the hostages.
MINUSMA was established in April of 2013 by UN Security Council Resolution 2100.
According to its website, the mission is tasked with carrying out “a number of security-related tasks” and helping Mali’s transitional authorities stabilize the country and implement a transitional roadmap.
In 2012, violence erupted in northern Mali following a failed coup attempt and a Tuareg rebellion that allowed Al-Qaeda-linked militants to take over the northern half of the country.
In early 2013, former colonial power France sent troops to the North African country and – with the help of Chadian and other African forces – flushed the militants from Mali’s main northern cities.
Nevertheless, recent months have seen sporadic attacks on UN peacekeepers and Malian army personnel.
In July, six UN peacekeepers were killed in the northern city of Timbuktu.
And last week, 11 Malian troops were killed by unidentified gunmen in an attack on a military camp in the Gouma-Rharous area some 160km east of Timbuktu.
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