Villagers in north Mali arrested two young men with explosives strapped to their bodies on Saturday, witnesses report. On Friday a man blew himself up in the main city of Gao, the first suicide attack of the conflict in Mali.
"We arrested two young men early this morning. They had explosive belts and they were riding on two donkeys," Oumar Maiga, the son of the village chief, told the AFP news agency.
He said the pair, an Arab and a Tuareg, were detained some 20 kilometres north of Gao, the largest city in the north, on the same road where Friday's attack occurred.
In that attack a young Tuareg, dressed as a paramilitary officer, rode a motorcycle to an army checkpoint and detonated an explosive belt, wounding a soldier, an officer says. A larger bomb that he was also carrying failed to go off.
The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao) claimed responsibility for the attack.
"We claim today's attack against the Malian soldiers who chose the side of the miscreants, the enemies of Islam," Mujao spokesperson Abou Walid Sahraoui said.
The Malian army beefed up security in the Gao region on Saturday morning.