BAMAKO (AFP) - Detectives investigating an explosion at a house in Mali’s capital that killed a security guard on Friday said they had uncovered plans for a “major attack”.
Security forces were alerted when the blast ripped through and “largely destroyed” the private residence in Sirakoro Meguetana, on the southeastern outskirts of Bamako, around 8am (4pm Singapore time).
“This is a major attack that was being readied,” a police source said, adding that the Burkinabe owner of the house was arrested at the scene and was beginning to give up details of the plot.
Police found detonators in the wrecked property, according to Moussa Diallo, an inspector at the scene, while the government named the victim in statement as Amadou Togo, a 22-year-old Malian employed to guard the property.
Police said explosives at the house had been mishandled, although they were not able to say immediately what type of material was behind the explosion.
“The intensity of the explosion also caused the injury of four people, the destruction of a part of the residence and considerable damage to neighbouring houses,” government spokesman Choguel Maiga said.
He said the owner was a “Burkinabe citizen engaging in the trade of chemical components used in gold mining activities who has a criminal record in Mali”.
An AFP correspondent witnessed mine clearance personnel from Minusma, the United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali, working at the cordoned-off scene.
“For us, this is a terrorist act in preparation. The terrorists were getting ready to terrorise,” a Minusma source told AFP.
Security sources and nearby residents said the house was situated opposite the property of a French national who had been evacuated unhurt, although it was not clear if the expatriate was the intended target of the plot.
“Investigations are ongoing to determine whether the French national was the target or not,” a security source told AFP.
The incident will heighten anxieties among Bamako’s expatriate community a month after heavily-armed militants struck La Terrasse, a favoured nightspot among foreigners, killing three Malians, a Frenchman and a Belgian.
Responsibility for that attack was claimed by Al-Murabitoun, a jihadist group led by one-eyed Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who is wanted for terrorist activities in several countries.
His movement said it had struck in response to the publication in France of cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
One of the alleged assailants was shot dead resisting arrest in the following days, the government said, while special agents arrested three suspected accomplices almost two weeks after the attack.
A police source said investigators were looking into a possible link between the scene of Friday’s explosion and a property raided in Samanko, northeast of Bamako, where weapons were discovered before the nightclub attack.
France has been seen as a target for Islamist movements in Mali since it led an international military operation to drive them from the main cities of the northern desert in 2013.
The militants had seized control of key northern towns, including the fabled Timbuktu, where they destroyed priceless artefacts and imposed a brutal interpretation of Islamic law.
Militants from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb decapitated a Malian in March that they accused of aiding France’s anti-extremist operation in the region, according to security sources.