An armed rebel group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO, has claimed responsibility for an attack on the city of Gao in northern Mali and a suicide bombing the day before.
Hundreds of residents gathered around the heavily damaged police headquarters building in the center of the city early on Monday, where body parts lay strewn about a day after al-Qaida-linked rebels launched a surprise attack on the city.
"Yesterday we had the gunfire and hid in our homes all evening," said Soumayla Maiga as he stood with his friends near the rubble of the police offices. "We were stunned when we came out and saw what happened."
Fighters armed with AK-47 automatic rifles sneaked into Gao on Sunday to launch a surprise attack on the Malian army in the most populous city in northern Mali, two weeks after French and Malian troops routed the al-Qaeda-linked fighters in the city.
The attackers used canoes to cross the Niger River to penetrate Gao, according to French General Bernard Barera, who cited Malian officials.
The combat started at about 2:00pm local time (14:00 GMT) in Gao's commercial hub and the fighting continued through the night.
Later, the sound of gunfire was replaced by the clattering of helicopters overhead.
On Monday morning, French helicopters fired at a police station at the centre of the clashes, the AFP news agency reported. A tense calm had descended on the city by the afternoon, and it was unclear how many fighters on either side had been killed.
Earlier, on Saturday night, a suicide bomber had detonated his explosives at a checkpoint at the northern entrance to Gao, killing himself and injuring one Malian soldier.
Another suicide bomber, on a motorcycle, blew himself up at the same security post on Friday, killing only himself and injuring a Malian lightly.
Troops at the checkpoint where both suicide attacks occurred said no one else was wounded in Saturday's blast.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera