Suicide Bomber Attacks Mali Checkpoint
Officials say one soldier was wounded when the suicide bomber approached on a motorcycle and detonated his explosives at a Mali military checkpoint near the northern city of Gao Friday.
French-backed Malian forces have faced a rising level of resistance from Islamist rebels in northern Mali in recent days, after taking control of the region last month.
Earlier this week, Malian and French forces came under rocket fire attack in Gao. Four Malian soldiers also were killed when their vehicle hit a landmine in the area Wednesday.
France is seeking to begin the process of handing over its four-week-old intervention to United Nations peacekeepers. But officials say any transfer will have to wait until Mali’s security situation stabilizes.
Diplomats have said privately that a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a peacekeeping operation for Mali is not likely before the end of February. It could take another two months after that to transition the African forces into U.N. peacekeepers.
The Mali crisis began in early 2012 when the Tuareg separatist group MNLA launched a rebellion in the north. The MNLA and Islamist militants seized control of the north in April but the MNLA was soon swept aside as the militants imposed harsh Islamic law on the region.
At the request of Mali’s government, French forces entered the country last month to drive back the al-Qaida-linked militants who had begun moving in the direction of the capital, Bamako.