Several people were reported killed after some motorcycle-borne Islamist gunmen stormed a hotel in central Mali on Friday morning. Five gunmen, who are still holed up in the hotel have taken three Russian pilots as hostages, media reports said.
The hotel in Sevare -- a town in the Mopti region of the west African nation -- is frequented by UN peacekeeping forces, reports said.
The army surrounded Sevare's Byblos Hotel, located close to Mopti airport. According to reports, security personnel still engaged in an encounter with the heavily armed terrorists.
It was reported that the attack on the hotel was an attempt to kidnap guests from foreign countries staying there. According to News101, three South Africans, a French national and a Ukrainian were among the foreign nationals staying at the hotel.
The Daily Mail reported that an unidentified body could be seen lying outside the hotel. The number of casualties is feared to increase. According to Reuters, the body was that of a white male.
Four Malian soldiers were killed in the gunfight, while three others were wounded. Two gunmen, strapped with explosives were also killed, military spokesman Souleymane Dembele told Reuters.
Dembele said an east European and three other personnel from the UN peacekeeping operation were believed to have escaped from the hotel. Reports claimed that three Russian pilots were taken hostage by the gunmen. Unconfirmed reports on social media claimed that the gunmen in a bid to set an example executed one of the hostages.
The Malian army has sealed off the area.
The latest attack comes just days after gunmen from Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb attacked an army post in Gourma-Rharouss in northern Mali. Ten Malian soldiers were killed in the attack.