Suicide bomber wounds French troops in central Mali

BAMAKO (Reuters) – A suicide bomber in a car attacked a French reconnaissance mission in central Mali on Monday, wounding some of the soldiers and local residents, the French army said.

The French military did not say how many were hurt, but the mayor of the town of Gossi, where the attack happened, said he had heard many people were wounded.

“The detonation was so loud it blew out the windows of some houses,” said the mayor, Moussa Ag Almouner. “We still hear shots, planes flying over the place.”

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Islamist militant groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State operate in the area.

The attack comes as France winds down its 5,100-strong Barkhane military mission that has operated in West Africa’s Sahel for years but struggled to uproot violent jihadist groups.

About 55 French soldiers have died in the region since Paris intervened in 2013 to drive back al Qaeda-linked militants that had seized cities and towns in northern Mali a year earlier.

Mali is in the middle of a political crisis. Malian army Colonel Assimi Goita this month took power following his overthrow of a second president in nine months.

The French army said on Monday a number of residents and its solders were taken to hospital for treatment and air support was sent to help the ground forces in the area.

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