Six French soldiers wounded in latest suicide bomb attack in Mali

The six were injured in an explosion on Friday in the volatile “Three Borders” region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. They were taken to the military hospital in the northern Malian city of Gao, and three of them will return to France over the weekend.

The six, all members of the French Barkane anti-Islamist operation, were injured in the explosion of a car bomb, reportedly driven by a suicide attacker.

The official military statement says the French soldiers were on board an armoured personnel carrier, patrolling with members of the Malian armed forces.

The convoy was approached by an unidentified vehicle driven at high speed, and the French manouvred to block the road to protect other members of the group.

The driver of the unidentified vehicle then set off an explosion.

None of the six injured soldiers is seriously hurt, although three of them are to be repatriated on Saturday for further medical treatment.

This is the third attack to target French peacekeepers in Mali since the end of December, with five soldiers losing their lives.

Controversy continues over French airstrike

France’s military has also announced that troops have returned to the scene of an airstrike in central Mali to confirm that only jihadists had been targeted. This follows claims by locals that a wedding had been hit.

Controversy erupted over the operation after several residents of the remote village of Bounti said that up to 20 people had been killed in the attack last Sunday.

On Friday morning “a land mission made up of Barkhane soldiers went to the scene of the French strike carried out on 3 January, north of the village of Bounti”, the military said in a statement.

“The information gathered during this mission is in all respects consistent with the analysis and assessment of the situation produced so far,” the Barkhane statement added.
Contradictory claims surround helicopter attack

Several villagers had told the AFP news agency that a wedding party in Bounti came under fire on Sunday from a single unidentified helicopter.

A cultural association that promotes Mali’s Fulani ethnic group said that around 20 civilians were killed.

The only armed forces that carry out offensive air operations in Mali are the national military and the Barkhane force.

France has said its operation did not involve a helicopter and on Thursday evening said that the available information “excluded the possibility of collateral damage”.

Mali’s defence ministry has supported the French account, saying its information showed that “the neutralised targets were confirmed military objectives”, and that “the observed surroundings did not show any wedding scene”.

The ministry added that an inquiry was being opened “to better understand” what had happened.