BAMAKO, MALI (AFP) - Three Europeans were shot dead at a nightclub in Mali's capital early Saturday in a suspected terror attack that came with the government at a key stage of peace talks with militants in the restive north.
At least one gunman entered the club in an area of Bamako popular with expatriates shortly after midnight and opened fire, according to police.
"This is a terrorist attack, although we're waiting for clarification. Provisionally, there are four dead - one French national, a Belgian and two Malians," a policeman told AFP, adding that the dead included a police officer who had been passing by the restaurant.
A third European, whose nationality was not immediately clear, died on arrival at the Gabriel Toure hospital in Bamako, a source there said, adding that eight people were wounded.
Firefighters carried the body of the French national from La Terrasse, a restaurant and nightclub in Bamako's lively Hippodrome district, according to an AFP correspondent who witnessed the aftermath.
In the moments after the attack, the body of the police officer and a guard of a private home could be seen in the street outside, while a little further, the body of the Belgian national was also visible.
Dozens of police officers secured the area but the few witnesses to the attack initially refused to testify, fearing reprisals.
A police source said two suspects had been arrested and were being interrogated, without revealing their identities or nationalities. French President Francois Hollande denounced "with the greatest force the cowardly attack", according to a statement from the presidency.
It said Hollande would meet Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to offer Paris's help to the former French colony, adding that security had been beefed up at the French embassy and other French installations in the country.
"My thoughts are with the victims and their families," said Didier Reynders, the foreign minister of Belgium, which has confirmed one of its nationals was among the dead.
EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini said one of the victims worked with the European Union in Mali, where the 28-nation bloc runs a mission to assist police and national guard forces.
The French embassy in Bamako issued a message to all French nationals in the city to exercise caution if they ventured out of their homes.