Armed men have killed five people, including a French citizen and a Belgian security officer with the EU delegation in the country, in an attack on a restaurant in Mali's capital, authorities say.

Mali's desert north, where French forces wrested control of territory from separatist rebels and al-Qaeda-linked fighters, is plagued by frequent political violence, but early Saturday's attack was first in years in Bamako, in the south.

Three Malians were killed in the violence in and around La Terrasse restaurant, which is popular with expatriates, the government said.

The attack began at around 1am local time (0100 GMT) and left nine people wounded, said a senior security official, adding that two people had been arrested.

Dozens of police officers secured the area, a popular nightspot among expatriates.

Falaye Kante, a senior police officer, said: "There were two individuals who were armed and hooded. One burst into the La Terrasse restaurant and opened fire on people. Then he got into a vehicle in which the other was waiting.

"As they fled down a neighbouring street, they shot a Belgian man who was in front of his house. He's dead. Not far away they came across a police vehicle and threw a grenade, killing the driver."

In moments after the attack, the body of the police staff member and a guard of a private home could be seen in the street outside the restaurant. A little further on, the body of the Belgian national was also visible.

Experts wounded

Those killed included a girl who died in hospital, Kante said. Witnesses said police secured the street where the restaurant shooting erupted because of unexploded grenades.

Two international experts with the United Nations Mine Action Service were among the wounded, according to initial reports cited by Mongi Hamdi, UN special envoy for the peacekeeping mission to Mali (MINUSMA).

French forces took control of northern Mali two years ago but fighters continue to mount attacks. France has more than 3,000 soldiers in West Africa as part of a counter-insurgency force against al-Qaeda-linked fighters.

Mali's government signed a preliminary peace proposal on Sunday meant to end fighting with northern separatists, but the Tuareg-led rebels demanded more time before agreeing to any accord.

Federica Mogherini, European Union foreign policy chief, said one of the victims of the Bamako attack was a Belgian security officer with the EU delegation in the capital.

"This terrorist act strengthens even more our resolve to help fight terrorism throughout the region," she said.

Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister, confirmed a French citizen was among those killed and said the attack strengthened France's resolve to "fight terrorism in all its forms".

The French embassy in Mali said on Saturday it had alerted its citizens and tightened security.

Source: Agencies