The Malian army said it had thwarted a “terrorist” attack on Friday at a town on the outskirts of the capital where a key base used by the ruling military is located.
Armed forces “vigorously repelled” a dawn attack at the garrison town of Kati in which assailants used two explosives-laden vehicles, the army said on Facebook.
“The situation is under control and operations are under way to flush out those behind (the attack) and their accomplices,” it said.
Two assailants have been killed, it said, giving what it described as a provisional toll.
One of Africa’s most troubled states, Mali is struggling with both a jihadist insurgency and political turbulence, experiencing two coups within the last two years.
Residents said they heard gunfire and explosions at dawn.
“We were woken up at five o’clock by firing, by explosions, we don’t know what’s going on,” said one resident said.
Another source said: “Our base is being attacked.”
Several hours later, an AFP correspondent heard detonations as special forces personnel were deployed in the area and two helicopters flew overhead.
A military source, who also asked not to be identified, said the attack aimed at a military fuel and transport depot, and the assailants had taken two vehicles.
The French embassy sent text messages to French nationals saying, “attack under way at Kati” and urging caution.
The base at Kati is located 15 kilometers (nine miles) from the capital Bamako.
It is a major hub for the Malian military, which has been behind a string of coups since the country gained independence from France in 1960.
The camp is reputedly the residence of strongman Colonel Assimi Goita, who is Mali’s transitional president, and Defense Minister Colonel Sadio Camara.
#Mali– Shots reported from #Kati, smoke over the town where interim President Goita live. An attack on the garrison town by terrorists would be a signal -"we can strike anywhere". However, the chances of success in this city full of army are low & the terrorist leaders know that. https://t.co/TAREmx0Qem
— Fabian (@fabsenbln) July 22, 2022
The base was the springboard for mounting a putsch led by Goita in August 2020, and afterwards was used to detain the ousted elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
After another coup the following May, the base was then used to hold Keita’s successor, Bah Ndaw, and prime minister Moctar Ouane.
Keita was forced out after mounting protests at failures to stem a jihadist campaign that erupted in northern Mali in 2012 and then spread to the country’s volatile center, Niger and Burkina Faso.
Across the three countries, thousands of civilians, troops, and police have been killed and more than two million people have fled their homes.
The camp at Kati has never been hit in the insurgency, and the identity of the assailants is unknown.
The attack came a day after suspected jihadists carried out six simultaneous raids — also launched at dawn — on security positions in the regions of Segou and Mopti in the center of the country and in Koulikoro, near Bamako.
In May 2021, the junta led by Goita staged a second coup, forcing out a civilian-led government.
Since then, it has woven closer ties with the Kremlin, bringing in Russian personnel, while relations with international partners have gone into a downward spiral.
Tensions, meanwhile, have brewed with the UN’s peacekeeping force MINUSMA, whose spokesman this week was told to leave the country.