GAO, Mali (AFP) – Villagers near the city of Gao in northern Mali on Saturday detained two youths alleged to have had explosives strapped to their bodies near the site of a suicide attack the previous day claimed by Islamist rebels, a witness said.
“We arrested two young men early this morning. They had explosive belts and they were riding on two donkeys,” Oumar Maiga, the son of the local village chief, told AFP.
He said the pair, an Arab and a Tuareg, were detained some 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Gao, the largest city in the north, on the same road where Friday’s attack occurred.
French-led troops have driven the Islamist insurgents who occupied northern Mali for 10 months out of the towns they controlled, but continue to come under attack in reclaimed territory.
Friday’s bombing, the first suicide attack in Mali, wounded a Malian soldier at a military checkpoint. It was claimed by the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), an offshoot of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The area around Gao has been on high alert since the bombing and a series of landmine explosions and guerrilla attacks.
Ordinary citizens often take justice into their own hands in Mali, detaining suspected criminals and even beating or lynching them.