BAMAKO: A suicide bomber in a vehicle painted in UN colours attacked the Malian headquarters of an international anti-terror task force, the G5 Sahel, on Friday, killing two soldiers and a civilian, according to a security source and a local leader.
The building’s entrance wall was destroyed, with the force of the blast throwing the vehicle inside it, according to witnesses and pictures of the scene.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Support Group for Islam and Muslims, the main jihadist alliance in Africa’s Sahel region, claimed the attack in a telephone call to the Mauritanian news agency Al-Akhbar.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned “the complex attack perpetrated against the G5-Sahel Joint Force’s Headquarters”, his spokesman said in a statement.
It was the first attack on the headquarters of the five-nation force, set up with the backing of France in 2017 to roll back jihadist insurgents and criminal groups in the vast, unstable Sahel region.
“Shortly after Friday prayers, a suicide bomber in a vehicle painted with UN colours blew up at the entrance to the G5 base in Sevare. It was a huge blast,” a military source in the G5 Sahel force told AFP.
Two soldiers from the force and a civilian were killed, as well as two attackers, according to a source within the force and the governor of Mopti, the regional capital.
The Malian government later said that the two soldiers killed were members of its armed forces.
A previous toll of six people killed was revised down.
Governor Sidi Alassane Toure said there had been ‘confusion’ in the morgue.
“We have arrested four suspects,” he told AFP, adding that search operations would take all night.
Guterres, who visited the Sevare headquarters last month, highlighted security shortcomings on several of the force’s sites in Mali in a report published in May.
“Poor conditions on and around the site represent an important security threat, and are delaying the deployment of the remaining soldiers,” the report said.
Residents in Sevare, 600 kilometres northeast of the capital Bamako, hid inside their homes during Friday’s attack, according to Bouba Bathily, a trader who sheltered from the gunfire in his house. — AFP