Five killed in Islamist car bomb attacks in north Mali

Fri Feb 22, 2013 2:22pm EST
 
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By Cheick Diouara

GAO, Mali (Reuters) - Five people were killed in a remote Malian town on Friday in car bomb attacks by Islamists on Tuareg MNLA rebels with close links to French forces, a spokesman for the Tuareg fighters said.

Violence in northern Mali underscores the risk of French and African forces becoming entangled in a messy guerrilla war as they try to help Mali's weak army counter bombings and raids by al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants.

Friday's car bomb attacks in In Khalil, 1,700 km (1,000 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako, came a day after a car bomb killed two people in the northern city of Kidal and French and Malian troops killed 15 Islamists on the streets of the city of Gao.

Sporadic gunfire was also heard in Gao on Friday, and a Malian officer said an Islamist fighter was still holed up near the banks of the Niger River.

Moussa Ag Assarid, a Paris-based representative of the pro-autonomy MNLA Tuareg fighters, said suspected Islamists had first tried to drive into a building in In Khalil, but the car was destroyed by fighters ahead of impact.

A second car then drove into the group's local operations center and exploded.

Aside from the two bombers, Ag Assarid said three MNLA fighters were killed and three others wounded. It was not possible to independently verify the report.

The MNLA swept across northern Mali in April, taking advantage of a power vacuum left by a coup in Bamako. But its revolt was eclipsed by a loose alliance of Islamist jihadists, including al Qaeda's North African wing, AQIM.   Continued...

 
A Malian soldier looks on during fighting with Islamists in Gao, February 21, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Penney