One or two suspected bomb makers were killed in the northern Mali town of Gao on Monday when the explosives they were handling detonated prematurely, local residents and a security official said.
The explosion occurred in the late afternoon in the Chateau neighbourhood of the northeastern town, which was seized and occupied in 2012 by al Qaeda-linked fighters who were driven out a year later by a French-led military operation.
“There were two dead. They were jihadists who’d come from the village of Kadji. They were in a house working on a bomb when it exploded,” a senior officer with Mali’s gendarmes told Reuters.
Kadji is a village located across the Niger River from Gao, suspected by local residents of serving as a hide-out for remnants of the Islamist groups.
A witness, who arrived at the scene of the bombing shortly after the explosion, cited residents as saying the building had housed fighters during the Islamist occupation of Gao.
“The house was completely destroyed,” he said. “I saw cell phone parts, wiring and detonators. There were pieces of human flesh that landed in neighouring houses.”
He and another witness said they believed one person was killed in the blast. Neighbours saw another man flee the scene of the incident.
Despite being driven out of northern Mali’s main population centres, Islamist fighters continue to launch regular attacks there. Two suspected bombers were lynched and burned alive in Gao earlier this month.
Islamists claimed responsibility for a rare attack on a restaurant in Mali’s capital Bamako this month that killed five people, including two foreigners.