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Seven Killed in Northern Mali Suicide Bombing

Ifoghas, Mali
A suicide bombing has killed at least seven people in the northern Mali town of Kidal, near the scene of heavy fighting between French troops and Islamist militants.

The MNLA, a Tuareg separatist group now working with the French, says a bomber in a four-by-four vehicle blew himself up at one of its checkpoints late Tuesday. The MNLA says the attack killed seven of its fighters and wounded several others.

Other sources confirmed the attack but put the death toll at six.

Kidal is on the edge of the Ifoghas mountains, where Islamist militants retreated after a French-led offensive drove them out of northern Malian cities last month.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Drian reported heavy fighting in the mountains on Tuesday. He said France and its allies are targeting an area where "the most radical terrorist groups" have gone.

French troops entered Mali in January to push back militants moving toward the capital and have since been joined by African troops in backing the Malian army.

Le Drian said the operation has regained control of almost all of northern Mali but that the hardest portion of the fighting remains.

France has said it plans to begin withdrawing its ground forces and hand over military operations to the Malian army and a West African force.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.