Mali seeks answers after deadly hotel siege

A senior source in the Malian army said the final toll had yet to be confirmed and would "probably" be higher.
A senior source in the Malian army said the final toll had yet to be confirmed and would "probably" be higher.PHOTO: AFP

BAMAKO (AFP) - Malian authorities Sunday sought to identify the perpetrators of a hotel siege in the central town of Sevare that ended with the deaths of at least 12 people including five UN workers.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the assault, which began early Friday when gunmen burst into the Hotel Byblos, which is frequented by expatriates.

The Malian army stormed the hotel and brought the siege to an end early Saturday after a drama lasting nearly 24 hours.

The UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) said two Ukrainians, a Nepalese and a South African were killed during the siege and subsequent military operation, as well as a Malian driver working for a company contracted by the mission.

An army officer said “five terrorists” were killed in the operation at a time when the region has seen continuing unrest a spike in jihadist attacks.

Both the army and MINUSMA said the death toll could rise.

Residents said the army mounted patrols overnight in the wake of the siege.

Soldiers could be seen in Sevare as well as along the road to the nearby regional capital Mopti, a popular tourist destination and the gateway to Dogon Country, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A Sevare resident told AFP by telephone in Bamako that the night was calm. “People are starting to go about their business. Everything is returning to normal here in Sevare,” he said.

Located some 12km from Mopti and 620km northeast of the capital Bamako, Sevare is a key staging post on the road to Mali’s desert north which fell to Islamic extremists in 2012.

A French-led offensive routed Islamist groups from their northern strongholds the following year.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon, France and the United States denounced the hotel attack, which came as Mali is seeking to implement a June peace deal.