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At Least 12 Dead in Mali as Soldiers End Standoff


Malian soldiers have raided a hotel in central Mali, freeing four hostages and ending a standoff with Islamist militants that left at least 12 people dead.

Defense officials did not give the nationalities of the hostages freed in the early Saturday operation, which they said was backed by French soldiers.

The jihadists stormed the Byblos Hotel in Sevare, about 600 kilometers (375 miles) northeast of Bamako, early Friday. The militants killed a U.N. staff member and five Malian soldiers and took other guests hostage. At least three militants were also killed.

Officials said at least three more bodies were found at the hotel following the Saturday raid, though their identities were not clear.

The standoff had lasted for about an entire day, after the jihadists were able to fight off several initial attempts to dislodge them.

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

The hotel was used by U.N. staff and had guests from France, South Africa, Russia and Ukraine.

The attack underscores the threat posed by Islamist militants who remain active in northern and central Mali despite the presence of U.N. peacekeepers.

A French-led military force ousted Islamist groups from power in northern Mali in 2013. The groups had seized power in the north after a military coup in Bamako in 2012.

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