Policemen block the street near La Terrasse restaurant in Bamako
Bamako - AFP
Malian special forces killed a suspect in last week's deadly jihadist attack on a nightclub in the capital, later identified as the flatmate of the heavily-armed gunman who stormed the venue.
Government sources said the accomplice, who died in a raid in a working-class area of Bamako, had been living with the gunman who opened fire in La Terrasse on Saturday, killing a Frenchman, a Belgian and three locals.
The accomplice had personally taken part in the nightclub assault, throwing a grenade from a motorbike in the street outside, security sources said.
"During an operation launched on Friday, one of the perpetrators of the terrorist crime last Saturday was killed. He did not want to surrender," a senior special forces commander told AFP.
Another special forces source told AFP the suspect -- a shaven-headed, light-skinned man from northern Mali -- was killed during a raid on the flat the two men had rented.
"After cross-checking, we are certain that the man who fired the shots at the La Terrasse bar-restaurant, lived... with his accomplice killed on Friday by our special forces," a defence ministry official told AFP.
- Explosions -
Communications Minister Choguel Maiga, the government spokesman, said Friday night that the gunman was still being sought.
"We are hopeful that the security forces, which were widely deployed today, grab him and other" accomplices involved in the attack, he told a news conference.
A lot of weapons and ammunition had been found in the apartment of the dead suspect, he said.
"And the initial analysis very clearly indicates that the bullets are the same type as those used" in the attack, he said.
Around a dozen people were arrested in Friday's raid, security sources said, while three special forces personnel were slightly wounded.
The operation marked a dramatic twist almost a week after the nightclub attack, in which eight people -- two of them Swiss nationals -- were wounded.
Sources have spoken of a number of leads, including clues on the getaway vehicle and its driver, but investigators had made no announcements of substantial progress in the hunt for the killers before Friday.
The streets around the two-storey building where the raid took place were blocked off to traffic as curious bystanders gathered in small groups and police surrounded the neighbourhood on Friday morning.
Jean Salif Tigana, a ground floor resident, said he was roused by noises upstairs in the middle of the night.
Thinking at first that someone was at the door, he went outside and saw police in the streets and heard explosions, he said.
Officers found an identity card on the dead accomplice purporting to belong to a man in his early 20s born in the village of Moudakane, near Gao, northern Mali's largest city, sources told AFP.
Al-Murabitoun, a jihadist group run by leading Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has claimed responsibility for the nightclub assault.
The group said it had struck in response to recent cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed, "whom the miscreant West insulted and mocked".
The group was referring to images published by Paris satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which saw 12 people killed at its offices by two Islamist brothers, part of three days of jihadist attacks in Paris that left 17 people dead overall.
- Attack first targeting Westerners -
Counter-terrorism teams from Paris and Belgium have been involved in the Bamako nightclub investigation, backed by police from MINUSMA, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.
The focus has been on a dozen terrorist groups and individuals, according to sources close to the case, including a Russian and Malian dual national who has not been located, and the alleged driver, whom sources say is disabled.
The attack was the first to target Westerners in Bamako, but Mali's vast desert north is riven by ethnic rivalries and an Islamist insurgency, and has seen numerous militant attacks on security forces.
Jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda controlled an area of desert the size of Texas for more than nine months until a French-led military intervention in 2013 that drove them from key towns in the region.
Mali's Tuareg-led rebels are in meetings in Kidal to decide whether to sign a peace deal already accepted by the government and smaller armed groups.
The talks began four days after UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged the main rebel alliance -- known as the Coordination -- to sign a peace deal penned in Algeria on March 1.
The Malian government signed the agreement, along with some northern pro-Bamako armed groups, but the rebels have asked for more time.
A Malian diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP this week that the rebels are under pressure from European states to join the peace deal.