BAMAKO: Suicide bombers targeted troops in two towns in war-torn northernMalion Friday, leaving five of the attackers dead and two Malian soldiers wounded, military sources said.

The first attack was against soldiers from neighbouringNigerstationed in Menaka, a Saharan desert commune 300 kilometres (185 miles) east of Gao, with only the bomber being killed, Nigerien and Malian military sources on the ground told AFP.

"Around 5:00 am (0500 GMT), a kamikaze in a car busted through the entrance to our military camp at Menaka. We fired our weapons and the kamikaze blew himself up," a Nigerien military source said.

"He is dead, but there were no victims among our ranks," the source added, stating that the Nigerien troops had gone on to "a state of alert".

Nigeris among several countries that sent troops toMalito fight Islamists who seized control of the desert north of the west African nation for several months last year, following a coup that caused turmoil in the capitalBamako.

A Malian military source in Menaka confirmed the attack, saying: "Early today, a light-skinned kamikaze managed to get inside the camp for Nigerien troops at Menaka.

"The kamikaze blew himself up at the wheel of his vehicle and the Nigerien army hit back."

Four suicide bombers were then killed and two Malian soldiers wounded in a second attack in the lakeside market town of Gossi, in the Timbuktu region, about 185 miles southwest of Gao, the source told AFP.

"On Friday morning, three suicide bombers blew themselves up in Gossi. They wounded two Malian soldiers. This is a provisional toll," he said.

A separate military source announced later that a fourth bomber wounded in the attack had died later in hospital.

The deaths were confirmed by an administrative source in northern Mali, who said the bombers came from Gao, the largest city in northern Mali, in a transport truck.

"Having arrived at the military checkpoint in Gossi... dark-skinned men blew themselves up in front of the Malian military. Two Malian soldiers were injured," the source said.

Jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb were driven out of Mali's northern towns in a joint operation by French and African military forces that began on January 11 and is still underway.

Residual groups of these fighters are no longer able to carry out coordinated assaults, but they are still capable of regular small-scale attacks, mainly against Malian and French soldiers.