At least two Malian soldiers killed in jihadist raid

File photo shows fighters from the Islamic jihadist group of MUJAO on guard near Gao airport in northern Mali on August 7, 2012 (AFP Photo/Romaric Ollo Hien)

Bamako (AFP) - At least two Malian soldiers were killed in an attack by jihadist forces Friday on the central town of Tenenkou, UN military sources said.

Islamist fighters had infiltrated the town "since Wednesday night," a local told AFP, before attacking troops Friday, killing at least two of them.

"This morning they started with heavy firing (and) the army responded. I saw the bodies of three Malian soldiers, and the Islamists left with their dead and injured," the resident, who asking not to be identified, said.

A military source serving with the United Nations MINUSMA mission to Mali confirmed "violent clashes has caused deaths on both sides."

"Calm has been restored, but the terrorists are still in neighbouring areas," he added.

Last week Islamist fighters tried unsuccessfully to attack Tenenkou, 470 kilometres (292 miles) north of Bamako, but managed to strike other towns in the area.

At least 11 Malian soldiers were killed during an assault on the Nampala garrison near the border with Mauritania, while a civilian was also slain near Djoura.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the January 5 attack on the Nampala garrison in a statement sent to Mauritanian press agency al-Akhbar.

The northern part of Mali fell to Islamist groups allied to AQIM in 2012, before the extremists were routed from the area by the French-led military intervention that has since been extended to the wider region under UN authority.