Mali car bombing targeting French troops kills civilians

An armoured personnel carrier on fire after a car bomb attack in Gao

An armoured personnel carrier on fire after a car bomb attack in Gao

 

A car bomb attack targeting a military patrol in northern Mali has killed at least two civilians and wounded several French soldiers, according to Mali’s Defence Ministry.

Patrik Steiger, France’s army spokesman confirmed that civilians had been killed in Sunday’s bombing near the town of Bourem in the Gao region.

He said the explosion took place near three French vehicles during a joint patrol with Malian troops.

The blast, which came two days after a deadly attack on the Mali headquarters of a five-nation regional force known as G5 Sahel, underscores the fragile security situation in the West African nation as it prepares to go to the polls on July 29.

“I confirm that it was a car bomb that drove into a joint Barkhane/Malian army patrol,” defence ministry spokesman Boubacar Diallo was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

“Barkhane is the name of the nearly 4,000-strong French forces stationed in its former colonies across the Sahel region.”

France intervened in its former West African colony in January 2013 to stop a southward offensive by fighters linked to al-Qaeda who seized control of vast expanses of the north.

About a dozen people were wounded in Sunday’s attack, including four to eight French Barkhane troops, Diallo said.

Photos posted on social media showed an armoured vehicle on a sandy road surrounded by black smoke.

Fatouma Wangara, a resident of Gao, said the French convoy was clearly targeted by a suicide car bomb.

“An armoured vehicle blocked the way and the car blew up,” she said.

Another resident said the area around the ambush had been sealed off by French soldiers.

On Friday, a suicide attack on the G5 headquarters killed two soldiers and a civilian in the Malian town of Savare.

The al-Qaeda-linked Support Group for Islam and Muslims, the main armed alliance in the Sahel, claimed Friday’s bombing in a telephone call to the Mauritanian news agency Al-Akhbar.

On Saturday, four Malian soldiers were killed when their vehicle drove over a landmine in the central Mopti region.

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, whose country is part of the G5, warned earlier on Sunday that security failings were hampering the work of the Sahel force.

He said Friday’s attack “hit the heart” of the region’s security and lashed out at the lack of international help. -Aljazeera

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