BAMAKO (Reuters) - Suspected Islamists carried out three attacks on soldiers from Mali and Niger in northern Mali on Friday, injuring one Malian soldier and leaving at least five suicide bombers dead, a spokesman for Mali's army said.
The attacks took place between 4 and 5 a.m. in Menaka and Gossi, near Gao - the first major town freed from the control of Islamist fighters during a French-led military intervention earlier this year.
"The first attack targeted Nigerien soldiers in Menaka. A car bomb entered the (military) camp, but the soldiers ... destroyed the vehicle which exploded," Lieutenant Colonel Souleymane Maiga told Reuters.
"At the same time in Gossi, three suicide bombers on foot attacked a checkpoint. Again the soldiers ... shot at them. The three bombers were killed," he said.
Another suicide bomber was killed as he tried to enter the military camp in Gossi, Maiga said, adding that the injury to the Malian soldier was not serious.
Despite its liberation after nearly a year of Islamist occupation, the riverside town of Gao and the surrounding areas have borne the brunt of a guerrilla war fought by militants who have now scattered into Mali's desert and mountains.
France, which launched an offensive to drive al Qaeda-linked Islamists from Mali, is now looking to withdraw thousands of troops from its former colony and hand over security duties to a U.N. peacekeeping mission.
(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Additional reporting by Adama Diarra; Writing by David Lewis and Joe Bavier; Editing by Alison Williams)