The Malian headquarters of an anti-terror task force, the G5 Sahel, in Sévaré, central Mali came under attack on Friday.
Six people were killed leaving many injured, according to a provisional toll.
“I see only six bodies, the others are injured,” said a hospital source, without further details. A military source confirmed a provisional death toll of six, suggesting the possibility of casualties.
A suicide bomber tried to penetrate the base at Sevare in central Mali, according to a security source, while a local orange seller, Haoussa Haidara, said: “there was a huge blast” followed by exchanges of gunfire.
According to Bouba Bathily, a trader who sheltered from the gunfire in his house, residents in Sevare were terrified and hid inside their homes.
The G5 Sahel is a taskforce of soldiers from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania launched in 2017 to root out jihadist violence in West Africa’s semi-arid Sahel region.
“We transported the bodies and the injured to the hospital, but we don’t know whether some of the injured have died in hospital. There are six dead on the ground,” the military source said.
Mali’s defence ministry earlier confirmed that Islamist militants raided the headquarters on Friday afternoon, opening fire with rockets and guns and attempting to infiltrate the base.
Ministry spokesman Boubacar Diallo told Reuters that Malian forces were securing the site.
Violence by Islamist militants has proliferated in the sparsely-populated Sahel in recent years, with groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State using central and northern Mali as a launchpad for attacks across the region.
Western powers, including France and the United States, have provided significant funding to the G5 Sahel in a bid to beat back the jihadists.
But the force has been slow to get off the ground, hobbled by delays disbursing the money and coordinating among the five countries.