Suicide bomber blows himself up near Mali soldiers
A suicide bomber blew himself up near a group of Malian soldiers in the northern city of Gao, where Islamist rebels driven from the town have resorted to guerilla attacks, a military officer told AFP Friday.
The suicide bomber "approached us on a motorbike, he was a Tamashek (Tuareg), and as he came closer he set off his belt," said First Sergeant Mamadou Keita.
"He died immediately and among us, one was injured."
The act marked the first suicide attack in the embattled west African nation since the start of a French-led offensive to oust the Islamists from Mali's north, where they had controlled key towns for 10 months.
It comes a day after one of the Islamist groups, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), said in a message to AFP Thursday that it had "created a new combat zone" by organising attacks on military convoys and placing landmines.
A landmine blast on Wednesday between the northern towns of Douentza and Gao killed four civilians returning from market, an officer with Mali's paramilitary police said.
That explosion came after a similar blast in the same area on January 31 claimed the lives of two Malian soldiers.
"MUJAO is behind the explosion of two Malian army cars," the group's spokesman Abu Walid Sahraoui said in a text message to AFP.
A month after the French launched a lightning offensive to chase out the Islamists, Paris has warned of "residual jihadist groups" who were still fighting.