More than 20 civilians were also injured in the bombing which took place in the troubled north of the country
Four dead in Mali attack on French soldiers
French soldiers on patrol in troubled northern Mali were targeted in a bombing on Sunday in which four civilians were killed and over 20 people injured, Malian authorities said.
In a separate incident on Sunday meanwhile, a vehicle of the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA), an armed group of former Touareg rebels which often operates alongside French and Malian forces in Mali’s north, also hit a landmine in Talataye village in the Gao region.
That blast killed four people and injured three, the group said in a statement.
The attacks, coming in the wake of two others on Friday and Saturday, highlighted the fragile security situation in the West African nation as it prepares to go to the polls on July 29.
Sunday’s attacks occurred as an African Union summit opened in neighbouring Mauritania, with security crises on the continent, including unrest in the vast Sahel region, high on the agenda.
Following the attack on the French patrol, Malian authorities, citing hospital sources, gave a provisional death toll of four civilians and over 20 people seriously injured.
On Friday, a suicide bombing hit the Mali headquarters of the five-nation force known as G5 Sahel, adding to concerns about how it can tackle the jihadist groups roaming the region.
The French military said there were no deaths among the troops whose armoured vehicle was attacked near the town of Bourem in the Gao region on Sunday, but that there were civilian casualties.
“A blast of unknown origin took place and there is a large number of civilian casualties, including children,” military spokesman colonel Patrik Steiger told AFP.
Gao resident Fatouma Wangara said the French patrol was deliberately targeted by a suicide car bomb.
“An armoured vehicle blocked the way and the car blew up,” she said.
Another resident told AFP that the area around the ambush had been sealed off by French troops.
Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, whose country is part of the G5 and is hosting the two-day African Union summit, warned that Friday’s attack on the Sahel force HQ had exposed regional security failings.
He said the blast “hit the heart” of the region’s security and lashed out at a lack of international help, saying the doors of the United Nations were “closed”.
“It was a message sent by the terrorists at this precise moment when we are getting organised to stabilise and secure our region,” Mr Aziz told France 24 television.
“If the headquarters was attacked, it is because there are so many failings we need to fix if we want to bring stability to the Sahel.”
The Al-Qaeda-linked Support Group for Islam and Muslims, the main jihadist alliance in the Sahel, claimed Friday’s bombing in a telephone call to the Mauritanian news agency Al-Akhbar.