A suicide bomber has blown himself up near Malian security troops in the central town of Gao, reports AFP. It’s the first suicide bombing on Malian troops since beginning their campaign with the French to wrest Mali’s north from Islamist militants.
The suicide bomber approached a group of Malian troops on a motorbike before detonating his explosives and injuring one soldier, reported AFP, citing military sources.
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 to AFP.
The bombing marks the first instance of militants employing suicide attacks as a tactic since the French-led campaign against Mali’s Islamists was launched three weeks ago.
The attack follows a threat by two Islamist extremist groups, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO),warning they had created a new “combat zone” and were organizing attacks on military convoys and placing landmines.
Meanwhile, in Mali’s southern capital Bamako shooting was reported at a paratrooper base, sources told Reuters.
The campaign to take back the North of Mali from the Islamist militants is now in its third week. Currently there are around 4,000 French troops deployed in the country aiding Malian security forces.
French and Chadian forces have made progress in their push towards Mail’s north, advancing into the northeastern mountain range where militants are thought to be holding seven French hostages.
The French-led assault has driven many of Mali’s rebels into the mountainous, amid fears they will adopt guerrilla-style tactics in the area.
“All these Jihadis and armed groups and terrorist elements – seemingly they have fled. Our concern is that they may come back,”
said UN leader Ban Ki-moon in New York. He echoed concerns over a possible guerrilla warfare backlash in Mali.