April 3, 2015 / 5:58 PM / 2 years ago

Explosion in Mali capital kills one, cause unclear

BAMAKO (Reuters) - An explosion at a house near the airport in Mali's capital, Bamako, killed one person and injured four others on Friday, government and security officials said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the blast, but initial suggestions it was the result of a gas leak gave way later in the day to suspicions that it may have been a bomb.

Islamist militants continue to mount attacks in the West African nation despite a 2013 French-led military operation that drove al Qaeda-linked fighters from positions they occupied in the north.

Violence is rare in the capital, in the south, but five people were killed in an attack on a restaurant last month.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sounkalo Togola said security forces had been deployed and an inquiry had been launched to establish what caused the midmorning explosion.

"We can't talk of a terrorist act at this point," he said.

The blast occurred at a house in the Sirakoro neighbourhood, where a businessman from Burkina Faso named Alhassane Kinde and his family lived.

A government statement released late on Friday that explosive compounds had been found at the house. It added however that Kinde traded in chemicals used in gold panning.

A witness who arrived at the scene in the early afternoon said the explosion had caused heavy damage to the house, killed a guard and injured two women who lived there.

"Gendarmes on the spot said that there were explosives in the house, but they didn't know how they got there," he said.

A security official, who asked not to be named, said initial investigations showed the man killed had been handling an explosive device.

"We are seeking to determine if he was a terrorist who was preparing a bomb with the aim of committing an attack," he said.

At least one suspected bomb-maker was killed in the northern town of Gao last month when the explosives he was handling detonated prematurely.

Islamist fighters seized control of Mali's north in 2012, taking advantage of a Tuareg uprising and a military coup in Bamako. They were driven back a year later, but pockets of militants still carry out attacks on local and foreign troops.

Islamists claimed responsibility for the attack on a popular Bamako restaurant that killed five people, including two foreigners.

Additional reporting by Adama Diarra and Souleymane Ag Anara; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Alison Williams

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