SA victim messaged family during deadly Mali siege

2015-08-10 14:05

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Johannesburg - A South African rescue worker killed in the weekend's Mali hostage siege messaged his family on WhatsApp for hours about the "warzone" outside the hotel bathroom where he was hiding.

Father-of-four, Roelof "Jaco" Janse van Rensburg, 39, was one of the 13 killed in Mali during the Hotel Byblos siege in the central town of Sevare.

A jihadist group is suspected of carrying out the attack which began early on Friday, though no one has claimed responsibility for the violence which left five UN workers dead.

A firefighter and rescue technician, Janse van Rensburg took shelter in his hotel bathroom and warned his family in South Africa of what was happening via the mobile messaging app.

"He was saying it's like a warzone out there," Janse van Rensburg's brother-in-law Cobus Smal told AFP on Monday.

"Everybody was hiding, they were trapped in their rooms."

The messages continued until about 18:00 GMT that night, when Janse van Rensburg's phone battery died.

The family heard nothing until the next afternoon.

"International relations [department of the South African government] called me on Saturday afternoon to tell me the news," Smal said.

His brother-in-law was dead.

"It's obviously very difficult for my sister and the kids," said Smal.

"They're taking it day by day. Now we're trying to know how we can get the remains back so we can have a funeral."

The South African government joined the UN in strongly condemning the attack.

Read more on:    mali  |  west africa

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