An attack was ongoing Friday at the Malian headquarters of a new, five-nation counterterror force in West Africa, the force’s commander told the Associated Press.
The assault began when a car packed with explosives detonated, Gen. Didier Dacko said by phone from neighboring Niger. “The attack is underway as I speak with you,” he said.
Residents said the blast shook the community of Sevare, near the central city of Mopti.
This is the first time the G5 Sahel headquarters has been targeted. The assault comes shortly before French President Emmanuel Macron and African leaders meet at an African Union summit starting Sunday in Mauritania, with the regional extremist threat on the agenda.
There was no immediate information on deaths or the identity of the attackers. A number of extremist groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group are active in Mali, often attacking local security forces and a U.N. peacekeeping mission.
The 5,000-strong G5 Sahel force launched last year and includes Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania. It has received millions of dollars in backing from the United States, the European Union, Saudi Arabia and others.
The new force joins multiple counterterror efforts in the region including France’s largest overseas military operation, Barkhane.