Bamako (AFP) - A gun attack blamed on jihadists in central Mali near the border with Burkina Faso left two policemen and two civilians dead on Saturday, security officials said.
The victims were killed "by armed Islamists in the village of Bih", about five kilometres (three miles) from the Burkinabe border, a provincial police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The official said the gunmen were travelling on motorcycle.
One of the policemen and one of the civilians died immediately as a result of the shooting, and the other two victims died of their injuries soon after, according to a Malian security source.
The source said the attackers were members of Macina Liberation Front (FLM), a new group that emerged earlier this year and has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks, some targeting security forces in central Mali.
The FLM draws its support from the Fulani people of central Mali, and is also linked to Ansar Dine -- Arabic for "defenders of the faith" -- one of the groups that took control of Mali's vast arid north in April 2012.
According to the Malian security source, authorities were investigating whether the FLM maintained a rear base in nearby Burkina Faso.
Mali was shaken by a coup in 2012 that cleared the way for Tuareg separatists to seize towns and cities of the north, an expanse of desert the size of Texas.
Al-Qaeda-linked militants then overpowered the Tuareg, taking control of the region for nearly 10 months until they were ousted in a French-led military offensive.
The vast desert region is now controlled by a patchwork of armed groups, loyal to the government or the Tuareg-led former rebels.