BAMAKO: Armed Islamic extremists on Tuesday blew up a small bridge near Mali's largest northern town of Gao, wounding two civilians, police and local government sources said.
"Early this Tuesday, Islamists dynamited one of two small bridges near Bentia, about 50 kilometres or 31 miles from the frontier with Niger, leaving two civilians wounded," said Ibrahim Cisse, a local councillor for the Gao region.
A police source confirmed the report.
Cisse said that the assailants, "wearing turbans," arrived by motorbike at the bridge that crosses the Niger river at Bentia, then destroyed it.
"In this place there are two small bridges. The aim of the Islamists was to blow up both bridges, but fortunately only the old one was badly damaged," said a police source in Gao.
"The new bridge, which is the most frequently used, sustained only very slight damage," the source added.
Malian soldiers had been sent to the spot "to avoid other acts of sabotage" by armed extremists, the police source said.
Islamist groups in Mali linked to Al-Qaeda and seek to impose strict Islamic law in the desert north of the vast west African country.
The bridges were attacked a day after Islamists fired shells on Gao itself, wounding a Malian soldier, and 10 days after a suicide attack in Timbuktu killed two civilians and four bombers, as well as wounding seven Malian soldiers.
Responsibility for that attack was claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which was founded in Algeria and operates in the Sahel region south of the Sahara.
Last year Mali was upended by a separatist rebellion and coup that toppled the elected president and allowed Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters to occupy the north before being ousted by a French-led military intervention. (AFP)