Four United Nations contractors were freed Saturday after Malian forces stormed a hotel in central Mali that had been attacked and held by suspected Islamist militants, a spokeswoman for the country's U.N. mission told Reuters. The workers -- two South Africans, one Russian and a Ukrainian -- were able to avoid detection during the deadly events that left a dozen people dead.
"Minusma [the U.N. peacekeeping mission] is happy to announce that four contracted individuals have been picked up safe and sound. At no point were they discovered by the terrorists in the hotel. They were hiding," Radhia Achouri said, as Reuters reported.
At least 12 people total dying during the events at the Hotel Byblos in Sevare. The ordeal began Friday and ended in a raid early Saturday, BBC reported. Three of the dead were hostages of undetermined nationality, Malian government spokesman Choguel Kokala Maiga told Reuters.
"[The siege] seems to be over and it has ended well," Col. Diaran Koné, a Malian defense ministry spokesman, told Reuters. "We freed the four hostages. But unfortunately we also found three bodies at the site."
No one has yet taken responsibility for the attack. Five Malian soldiers and four gunmen died during the fighting, Reuters reported. Seven of the attackers were arrested as well, BBC reported.
The siege began after the gunmen retreated from an attempted attack on a military site about 20 yards away from the hotel. It is still unclear who was behind the attack but Islamist militants have claimed responsibility for other recent attacks in southern and central Mali, BBC reported. Sevare is not typically a stronghold for militants.
"We would expect these things to happen in Gao or Timbuktu, but this the first time it has happened in Sevare," a local resident said, the BBC reported.
Ukraine and Russia previously confirmed their citizens were among the people held in the hotel. At least one French national was thought to be staying at the hotel, Malian forces said Friday, as Reuters reported.