Mali seeks gunmen behind Bamako attack

Ahamadou Cisse and Serge Daniel
Security forces in Mali have arrested three more suspects over a deadly siege at a hotel in the centre of the country (AFP Photo/Stringer)

Bamako (AFP) - Security forces in Mali were Thursday searching for gunmen who wounded a policeman and a civilian in an attack in the capital Bamako, which a government minister called an "isolated act".

At least two armed men on Wednesday attacked the police post at Sogoniko bus station in the city's southeast, just days after a bloody jihadist assault and hostage-taking at Sevare in the centre of the west African country.

Security forces fanned out across the Sogoniko terminus, which was partly cordoned off with yellow tape marked "Scientific and technical police. Forbidden zone."

Normally, the area is bustling with buses and other vehicles and hordes of people, including traders.

Armed police, with national guard soldiers, patrolled the area, where authorities have allowed some regular activities to resume after an overnight shutdown.

The attackers went to the bus station in a taxi before opening fire on the police post and injuring two people, Interior Minister Sada Samake told AFP by phone.

"This is an isolated act," Samake said. "We have opened an investigation."

A military source on Wednesday said that "two "turbaned individuals" made their getaway after the shooting "by motorcycle".

The source said that the attack could be the work of radical Islamists, who are active mostly in the desert north, far from the southern capital, and latterly in central Mali.

Tuareg separatists are also active in the arid north where they want to carve out a homeland called Azawad.

Jihadist fighters have stepped up a campaign of raids, ambushes and rocket attacks targeting the Malian army and soldiers of a UN force deployed in 2013.

Troops from France, who deployed early in 2013 to help take back key northern towns and surrounding territory from armed movements related to Al-Qaeda, are also a potential target.

The shooting in Bamako follows several attacks in northern and central Mali, most recently in the town of Sevare, where a deadly hostage drama at a hotel frequented by foreigners left 13 people dead last week, including four UN expatriate staff.

The government has said that seven suspects were arrested in connection with the incident, while a security official on Thursday said that three more suspects were detained during the night, speaking from San, more than 200 kilometres (120 miles) south of Sevare.

The hotel attack was claimed by fighters linked to the notorious one-eyed Algerian leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the former head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who now leads his own extremist Al-Murabitoun group.