Four suicide bombers have blown themselves up at an army barracks in northern Mali, killing two civilians in an upsurge in violence against the military since the failure of peace talks with rebel groups.
The bombers let off explosives on Saturday in a car in front of an army camp in the desert city of Timbuktu, also wounding six soldiers, the government said, just 24 hours after troops in the rebel bastion of Kidal were hurt in a grenade attack.
“This cowardly attack resulted in the death of six people, including two civilians and four fighters who were killed on the spot. The explosion resulted in extensive damage,” the government said in a written statement, according to AFP news agency.
Witnesses said the suicide bombers detonated their vehicle near the Malian army camp in Timbuktu, killing both occupants of the vehicle and two passers-by.
“The city was shaken by a loud explosion followed by the crackling of machine-gun fire,” Fatoumata Cisse, whose house is near the military camp said by telephone.
An African military source from the United Nations’ MINUSMA peacekeeping mission confirmed the attack, the first suicide bombing in the mainly Tuareg and Arab northern fabled caravan town since March.
Mali has been the target of a series of attacks claimed by fighters since France launched a military operation in January against al-Qaeda-linked groups occupying the north of the country.
The French-led operation forced the fighters from the cities they seized in the chaotic aftermath of a military coup that overthrew Mali’s government in March 2012.
Residual groups of these fighters are no longer able to carry out coordinated assaults, but are still capable of regular small-scale attacks, mainly against Malian and French soldiers.
On March 21, a suicide bomber blew up a car near the Timbuktu airport at the start of an overnight assault on the city, killing a Malian soldier.
Saturday’s attack came a day after two men threw hand-grenades at Malian troops in the ethnic-Tuareg northern town of Kidal, wounding two soldiers.
The incidents follow the suspension of peace talks on Thursday between Tuareg and Arab rebels who want autonomy for northern Mali and the government.
The government urged Malians to remain calm, saying security was being enhanced across the country.