Suspected Islamist militants have attacked a hotel in central Mali, killing at least seven people and exchanging fire with troops near the building, residents and military sources say.
August 7 Reports of three Russian pilots kidnapped in central Mali are untrue, the Russian embassy in capital Bamako said on Friday.
The body of a white male victim was visible in front of the hotel, a witness said.
Among the dead were two Malian soldiers, while the body of a white man was seen lying sprawled outside the hotel in the town of Sevare, military sources said.
Mr Dembele also said personnel from the MINUSMA UN peacekeeping operation were believed to have escaped from the hotel.
An army spokesman said Islamic extremists attacked a hotel in the centre of the African country near an army camp in Sevare.
Smoke rose from the hotel and heavy weapons fire was heard, as government forces moved in to dislodge the gunmen.
“The army is trying to find (the attackers) and remove them”, a Mali army official in Bamako told AFP, saying the operation was delicate because of the presence of guests in the hotel.
At least five foreigners – three South Africans, a French citizen and a Ukrainian – were registered at the hotel, the sources said. The United Nations has deployed the MINUSMA force in the country’s north, following the area’s Islamist occupation.
Residents in the area are hiding in their homes.
“This morning as I was leaving for work I heard shots and saw smoke coming from the Hotel Debo”.
The group last month carried out several attacks on UN peacekeepers and the Malian army in Bamako and on the borders near the Ivory Coast and Mauritania.
Mali’s north fell under the control of Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012.