BAMAKO: An organisation linked to al-Qaeda on Thursday claimed an attack in northern Mali that killed two soldiers, the US monitoring group SITE said.
Claims were made by Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, the Mali-based branch of al-Qaeda, on the "Telegram" channel of the group's so-called Al-Zallaqa Media Foundation, it said.
"Fighters mounted a surprise attack on the Malian army position in Soumpi, killing two soldiers and burning military vehicles as well as those belonging to Sogea-Satom," a French road construction company that the troops had been "guarding", it said.
A second communique reported attacks on gendarmerie posts in Dioro and Ouan in central Mali on Monday and a landmine blast on a Malian army vehicle in the Mopti region on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Malian defence ministry said two troops had been killed and a third injured in a "terrorist" attack in Soumpi.
Groups of Islamic extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of the desert north of Mali in March and April 2012 at the expense of Tuareg rebels, but were chased out of Sahara towns by a French-led military operation launched in January 2013, which is still under way.
Mali's army, French soldiers and a UN mission (MINUSMA) have no control of large tracts of the country, which regularly come under attack in spite of a peace accord signed with Tuareg leaders in May and June 2015, aimed at isolating the jihadists.
Since 2015, jihadist attacks have spread to the centre and south of Mali and latterly to neighbouring countries, particularly Burkina Faso and Niger.
The creation of Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen was announced on March 2 as a fusion of the groups Ansar Dine, the Al-Murabitoun of Mokhtar Belmokhtar and the "Emirate of the Sahara," a branch of a Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI).