Attack took place in Sevare near an airport that hosts Malian forces, UN peacekeepers and Russian Wagner fighters.
At least nine people have been killed and dozens of others wounded in an attack near a military camp and airport in central Mali.
More than 60 people were wounded in a bomb attack in the town of Sevare in the Mopti region early on Saturday, Yacouba Maiga, a spokesman for the regional governor, told the Reuters news agency.
“The blast destroyed about 20 houses in the neighbourhood. There are a total of nine dead and about 60 wounded, all civilians,” Maiga said.
Images shared on social media showed several buildings, including a petrol station destroyed by the blast, as well as wounded people being given assistance.
Earlier on Saturday, the West African country’s government said in a statement read on national television that “a terrorist attack” had been stopped by the army in Sevare.
“Three vehicles filled with explosives were destroyed by army drone fire,” the statement said, without giving further details on casualties.
‘A complex attack’
Al Jazeera’s Nicola Haque, reporting from Dakar, Senegal, said the attack happened at 5am (05:00 GMT) when most residents would have been asleep.
He added that the government described the incident as “a complex attack” at the airport in Sevare, which is home to a Malian security forces base, UN peacekeepers and Russian fighters from the Wagner group.
“No one has claimed responsibility for this attack,” he said, adding that the governor in the region asked residents to urgently donate blood due to the high number of causalities.
The attack comes days after ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda affiliate groups reportedly took control of parts of the region.
Lassane Ouedraogo Wedraogo, a research fellow focusing on the Sahel region at the Centre for Democracy and Development, said the attack most likely targeted Wagner mercenaries stationed at the camp.
He said it is hard to pinpoint the group responsible for the attack as many armed groups are active in the region.
“But so far everything is pointing towards the JNIM group because it is the type of attack they would do,” he said, using the initials for the Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin group, adding that recently they have criticised the presence of Wagner forces in Mali.
Wagner mercenaries, which have been deployed to Mali and the Central African Republic, are currently also fighting in Russia’s war against Ukraine.