Russia’s embassy on August 7 dismissed claims by authorities in Mali that three Russian pilots have been kidnapped by Islamic militants in the West African state, saying the reports are not true.
But Russian officials said later on August 7 that Russian citizens were among a group of foreigners that were taken hostage by the militants and were being held in a hotel after a daylong battle.
Earlier, a spokesman for Mali’s army said three Russian pilots were abducted by Islamist fighters who attacked a hotel in central Mali on August 7.
Later, another military spokesman said four personnel from the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Mali were believed to have escaped from the hotel amid an ongoing battle. The spokesman identified one of those UN personnel as “an East European.”
Authorities say at least five soldiers and three militants were killed in the battle that broke out after the gunmen stormed the hotel near the airport in Sevare, about 600 kilometers northeast of the capital, Bamako, in the early morning hours.
The hotel is frequently used by members of a United Nations peacekeeping operation.