Suicide bomber wounds French troops in central Mali

BAMAKO (Reuters) -A suicide bomber in a car attacked a French reconnaissance mission in central Mali on Monday, wounding six of the soldiers and four residents, the French army said.

The state of the injured was not immediately clear. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. Islamist militant groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State operate in the area.

"The detonation was so loud it blew out the windows of some houses," said Moussa Ag Almouner, the mayor of the town of Gossi, near where the attack took place. "We still hear shots, planes flying over the place."

The attack comes as France winds down its 5,100-strong Barkhane military mission that has operated in West Africa's Sahel for years but struggled to uproot violent jihadist groups.

About 55 French soldiers have died in the region since Paris intervened in 2013 to drive back al Qaeda-linked militants that had seized cities and towns in northern Mali a year earlier.

Mali is in the middle of a political crisis. Malian army Colonel Assimi Goita this month took power following his overthrow of a second president in nine months.

The French army said on Monday that the car laden with explosives detonated near a French military armoured vehicle. The wounded soldiers and residents were flown to hospital for treatment and air support was sent to help the ground forces in the area.

(Reporting By Tiemoko Diallo in Bamako and Tangi Salaun in Paris; writing by Edward McAllister; editing by Andrew Heavens and Angus MacSwan)

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