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Mali hotel siege: Hostages in Sevare freed by security forces

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Malian security forces have stormed a hotel in the central town of Sevare, ending a deadly siege and freeing several hostages.
A spokesman for the Malian forces said four bodies were found inside the Byblos Hotel after the early raid.
At least one UN worker and several suspected Islamist militants are thought to have died in the siege but the exact number is unclear.
Mali has been fighting Islamist rebels in the north for a number of years.
Two South Africans, one Ukrainian and one Russian national were said to have been freed after being trapped inside the hotel, which is popular with UN workers in the town, since Friday morning.
The UN peacekeeping force in Mali (Minusma) said it believed a member of its international personnel was killed in the attack but gave no further details.
A total of at least 13 people are thought to have died since gunmen swept through Sevare on Friday morning on motorbikes, attacking an air force base before taking over the hotel.
It is unclear which group was behind the hostage-taking but Islamist militants have claimed responsibility for other recent attacks in the south and centre of Mali.

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The town, which is about 600km (370 miles) north-east of the capital, Bamako, is a trading hub that serves the historic riverside city of Mopti.
A local resident told the BBC on Friday that it was the first time the town has faced an attack like this.
“Since the beginning of the fighting in Mali, we haven’t experienced such a situation in Sevare.”
“We would expect these things to happen in Gao or Timbuktu, but this the first time it has happened in Sevare,” he said.

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The UN force in Mali took over responsibility for security in the country from French troops in July 2013.
France, the former colonial power in Mali, intervened in the country after Islamist militants threatened to march on Bamako in January 2013.

Militancy in Mali

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October 2011: Ethnic Tuaregs launch rebellion after returning with arms from Libya
March 2012: Army coup over government’s handling of rebellion
April 2012: Tuareg and al-Qaeda-linked fighters seize control of north
June 2012: Islamist groups capture Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao from Tuaregs, start to destroy Muslim shrines and manuscripts and impose Sharia
January 2013: Islamist fighters capture a central town, raising fears they could reach Bamako. Mali requests French help
July 2013: UN force, now totalling about 9,750, takes over responsibility for securing the north after Islamists routed from towns
July 2014: France launches an operation in the Sahel to stem emergence of jihadist groups
2015: Sporadic attacks continue in desert area of northern Mali, blamed on Tuareg and Islamist groups.

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