A Dutch man, Swede and South African were abducted from a hostel in Timbuktu in November 2011.
The army besieged the hotel after the attack in a bid to neutralize the gunmen and release the hostages. He said four jihadists were killed, not three as the government earlier stated.
“Our contractors survived because at no time was their presence discovered by the terrorists in the hotel“, she said adding there was not much resistance Saturday morning during the rescue by special forces.
Colonel Diaran Kone said, “It seems to be over and it has ended well”.
UN mission in Mali spokeswoman Radhia Achouri said the four freed were United Nations employees. 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.
Sevare, a garrison town about 600 kilometers (375 miles) northeast of Bamako, is at the heart of Mali’s tourism industry and up until now had not been targeted in the attacks more common in the north. The extremists’ attacks are moving further south and directly targeting Malian soldiers and the United Nations. The coup leaders said they staged the coup d’état in response to the government’s inability to contain a rebellion in northern Mali.
MINUSMA said in a statement Friday that the gunmen originally attempted to attack a military site in the town, but moved onto the hotel after being pushed back by Malian soldiers. The nationalities have not yet been specified. Russian news agencies, citing a press attache at Moscow’s embassy in Mali, said a Russian hostage employed by the airline UTair was among those freed on Saturday. “No one has touched them”, the man, who did not wish to be named, said by phone.
“The Government of the Republic of Mali condemns in the strongest terms this cowardly and barbaric attack against the peaceful citizens of Mali and friends present on the national territory”, it said.
A French-led offensive ousted the jihadis from power in the north in early 2013.
Mali has been fighting Islamist militants for several years.
Sahara-based group al-Mourabitoun claimed responsibility for an attack on a restaurant in Mali’s capital Bamako that killed five people, including a French citizen and a Belgian security officer in March.