Foreign UN workers killed in Mali siege

  • 09/08/2015
UN contractors in Mali (Reuters)
UN contractors in Mali (Reuters)

At least 12 people including four foreign UN contractors have been confirmed dead in a siege at a hotel in central Mali.

It ended early on Saturday (local time) when government troops stormed the building in Sevare.

"There are 12 dead in all," an army officer told AFP after the operation at the Hotel Byblos in Sevare, listing the fatalities as five "terrorists", five soldiers and "two white people".

The body of one of the foreign victims had lain in front of the hotel since Friday when the gunmen stormed the building, the officer said.

The UN mission in Mali MINUSMA said two Ukrainians, a Nepalese and a South African were killed in the drama as well as a Malian driver working for a company contracted by the mission.

It said four others - two South Africans, a Russian and a Ukranian - were rescued and were in "good health."

"The attackers did not detect their presence in the hotel and MINUSMA was in permanent contact with them throughout the attack and until its end," it added.

South Africa's foreign ministry said a 38-year-old man from Pretoria was killed in the siege while two other South Africans were safe.

Local media identified the victim as Roelof Janse van Rensburg. A foreign ministry spokesman said he was working for an aviation company hired by MINUSMA.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry said four of its nationals were caught up in the attack, one of whom was killed.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack, which comes as Mali is seeking to implement a June peace deal despite continuing unrest from militant groups and spreading jihadist attacks since the beginning of the year.

"This attack will not lessen the determination of the United Nations to accompany the Malian people in their efforts to implement the peace agreement," the statement said.

Located a few kilometres from the regional capital Mopti, Sevare is a key staging post on the road to Mali's desert north which fell to Islamic extremists in 2012.

A source told AFP that a Russian man "hidden inside the building" had supplied "useful information" to Malian forces during the siege.