An Al-Qaeda affiliate claimed a deadly suicide attack in a strategic garrison town near the Malian capital, according to jihadist monitor SITE which authenticated a statement from the group.

The Malian army previously blamed jihadists of the Katiba Macina group for the Friday attack with two vehicle-borne bombs that killed at least one soldier in Kati, the heart of the Malian military establishment.

The target was also near the residence of the head of the ruling junta Assimi Goita and the powerful defence minister.

On Friday, "a brigade of mujahideen conducted a blessed operation against the Malian army, the unjust killer of innocents, at the most notorious place in the capital Bamako, near the headquarters of the president and the defence ministry".

The group claims to have deployed two suicide bombers and "commando fighters".

"If you have the right to hire mercenaries to kill defenceless innocents, then we have the right to destroy and target you," the statement continued, referring to paramilitaries linked to Russian private security group Wagner.

A man prays in the recently liberated town of Douentza, Mali on Jan. 28, 2013 REUTERS

The group has been present in Mali since early 2021, according to Western diplomats.

The Malian army has intensified its anti-jihadist operations in recent months, relying on what it describes as Russian instructors.

Despite a deteriorating security situation, the junta turned its back on France and its international partners, instead leaning on Russia to stem the threat posed by jihadists to Mali, as well as Burkina Faso and Niger.

The Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM) is the main jihadist alliance in the Sahel and is linked to Al-Qaeda.

The GSIM, whose influence on the ground continues to expand, comprises a myriad of groups including the Katiba Macina and operates mainly in Mali and Burkina Faso.