Bamako: At least 12 people, including five soldiers, two civilians and one UN staff, have been killed after unknown militants attacked a hotel in central Mali on Friday, Malian officials said.
Four hostages have been freed from the Byblos hotel used by UN staff, according to the Directorate of Information and Public Affairs of the Malian Army on Saturday, adding that four militants were also killed in the raid, Xinhua reported.
Radhia Achour, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA, confirmed that the released hostages were UN contractors — two South Africans, one Russian and one Ukrainian.
Choguel Kokala Maiga, spokesperson of the Malian government, said the Malian troops are searching for surrounding buildings of the hotel in order to capture fleeing militants.
Maiga said the identities of the attackers have not yet been confirmed.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has urged Donald Trump not to walk away from an international deal designed to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.
Speaking to the BBC, Guterres said there was a real risk of war if the 2015 agreement was not preserved.
Trump has been a strong critic of the accord, in which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions.
The US president has until May 12, to decide whether to stick with the deal.
Guterres told the BBC that the Iran agreement was an “important diplomatic victory” and should be maintained.
“We should not scrap it unless we have a good alternative,” he said, adding: “We face dangerous times.”
It comes just days after Israel revealed “secret nuclear files” accusing Iran of having covertly pursued nuclear weapons.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the files provided proof that the Obama-era nuclear deal was “built on lies”, the BBc report said.
European allies France, the UK and Germany meanwhile have agreed that pursuing the current nuclear deal with Iran is the best way to stop it developing nuclear weapons.
In 2015, Tehran signed a deal with the US, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain agreeing to limit its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.
Under the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran is committed to slashing the number of its centrifuges, which are machines used to enrich uranium.
It is also meant to cut its stockpile of enriched uranium drastically and not enrich remaining uranium to the level needed to produce nuclear weapons.
Trump has frequently voiced his opposition to the “insane” deal, which he has described as the “worst ever”. Unless the European signatories to the deal and the US Congress addressed his concerns, he plans to withdraw on the next deadline for waiving sanctions.
Trump is unhappy that the deal only limited Iran’s nuclear activities for a fixed period (till 2025) and had failed to stop the development of ballistic missiles.
A UN official told IANS that sanctions monitors had given India details on how various countries had dealt with the definitions of materials in the sanctions as well as the World Customs Organisation's codes identifying the products.