Civilian killed in northern Mali rocket attack

Militants shelled the largest city in restive northern Mali on Sunday, killing a civilian and wounding three relatives as they slept, hospital and security sources told AFP.

A police official in Gao said the deadly rocket strike hit a household in the north of the city, while two more landed near a clinic in the city centre and in a field to the south. "We received four wounded by rocket fire.

One person, aged 27, has died from his injuries," an official at Gao's main hospital told AFP, adding that a three-year-old was among the wounded. "The deceased and wounded were from the same family, and all were asleep when the rocket fell into their home," a separate police source added.

A security source in MINUSMA, the United Nations peacekeeping mission, confirmed the attack, which came six days after a Red Cross worker was killed by jihadists in Gao. Security forces in the area were already on high alert after unidentified men on motorcycles opened fire on the village of Boni, some four hours by road southwest of Gao, on Friday, killing two civilians.

The assailants fired shots at the police station and town hall, bringing "terror to Boni", one elected local official told AFP. The government said in a statement on Saturday a "large-scale search operation is underway throughout the area to bring these terrorists out of harm's way".

Boni and Gao are located near the border with northern Burkina Faso, where gunmen kidnapped a Romanian security officer at a mine on Saturday before fleeing with him towards Mali.

The hostage was seized when five armed men attacked a patrol at the manganese mine in Tambao, some 350 kilometres (220 miles) from Gao, according to its director general Souleymane Mien.

A gendarmerie officer and a driver who were in the same car as the Romanian national were injured after coming under fire in the attack, he said. "The perpetrators of the abduction were heading for the Malian border, we have sent men to try to intercept them," a Malian security source told AFP.

There has been no indication of who was behind any of the attacks.

Mali's vast desert north is riven by ethnic rivalries and an Islamist insurgency. Jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda controlled Mali's north for more than nine months in 2012 until they were routed by a French-led military intervention, but extremist fighters remain active throughout the restive northeast.

Mali is also struggling with ethnic Tuareg militants fighting the army over northern territory they claim as their homeland and call Azawad.