Bamako – Suicide bombers targeted troops in two towns in war-torn northern Mali on Friday, leaving four of the attackers dead and two Malian soldiers wounded, military sources said.
The first attack was against soldiers from neighbouring Niger stationed in Menaka, a Saharan desert commune 300 kilometres east of Gao, with only the bomber being killed, Nigerien and Malian military sources on the ground told AFP.
“Around 5.00am (05.00 GMT), a kamikaze in a car busted through the entrance to our military camp at Menaka. We fired our weapons and the kamikaze blew himself up,” a Nigerien military source said.
“He is dead, but there were no victims among our ranks,” the source added, stating that the Nigerien troops had gone on to “a state of alert”.
Niger is among several countries that have sent troops to Mali to help fight armed Islamists who seized control of the desert north of the west African nation for several months in 2013, following a coup that caused turmoil in the capital Bamako.
A Malian military source in Menaka confirmed the attack, saying: “Early on Friday, a light-skinned kamikaze managed to get inside the camp for Nigerien troops at Menaka.
“The kamikaze blew himself up at the wheel of his vehicle and the Nigerien army hit back.”
Three suicide bombers were then killed and two Malian soldiers wounded in a second attack in the lakeside market town of Gossi, in the Timbuktu region, about 185 miles southwest of Gao, the source told AFP.
“On Friday morning, three suicide bombers blew themselves up in Gossi. They wounded two Malian soldiers. This is a provisional toll,” he said.
The attack was confirmed by an administrative source in northern Mali, who said the three bombers came from Gao, the largest city in northern Mali, in a transport truck.
“Having arrived at the military checkpoint in Gossi, three dark-skinned men blew themselves up in front of the Malian military. Two Malian soldiers were injured,” the source said.
Jihadists linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb were driven out of Mali’s northern towns in a joint operation by French and African military forces that began on January 11 and is still under way.
Residual groups of these fighters are no longer able to carry out coordinated assaults, but they are still capable of regular small-scale attacks, mainly against Malian and French soldiers.