Islamist group claims responsibility for Mali attack that killed 5

PARIS (Reuters) - The Mauritanian news website Al-Akhbar said the armed Islamist group al-Mourabitoun had claimed responsibility for an attack in Mali’s capital Bamako on Saturday that killed five people.

Alakhbar, which is often sent statements by Islamist militants in Mali, said it had received a video it would post later in the day.

Al-Mourabitoun was formed by veteran jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who is a target of French forces hunting down al-Qaeda-linked militants in the Sahel-Sahara region.

Militants killed five people including a French citizen and a Belgian security officer before escaping in a gun attack on a restaurant in the early hours of Saturday, authorities said.

Citing the video recording, the website said the attack was in reprisal for the killing by French troops in December of Ahmed al Tilemsi, one of the group’s senior commanders.

Al Tilemsi was a founding member of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), which merged with fighters loyal to Belmokhtar to form al Mourabitoun in 2013.

MUJWA, Belmokhtar’s men and members of al Qaeda’s north African arm, AQIM, formed a loose alliance of fighters that seized northern Mali’s desert regions in 2012. They have repeatedly said they would strike French targets in the region.

The militants were scattered by a French offensive in January 2013, and France has kept more than 3,000 troops in the region. The French army said on Thursday it had killed four armed terrorists in northern Mali on March 2.

Reporting by John Irish; editing by Andrew Roche