Four civilians were killed in an attack targeting a French patrol in Mali Sunday, according to the country's Defense Ministry. At least 20 other people were injured in the attack, including eight French soldiers, the ministry said.
An earlier statement by the Defense Ministry said that two French soldiers were among the dead, but it has since released an update noting that those killed were civilians.
A spokesman for the French military said there were no deaths among French troops when a car bomb was detonated in the northern city of Gao.
"I confirm that it was a car bomb that drove into a joint Barkhane/Malian army patrol," Mali Defense Ministry spokesman Boubacar Diallo said, referring to Operation Barkhane the nearly 4,000 French troops stationed in its former colonies in the Sahel region.
Witness reports claim that a shootout between attackers and Barkhane and Malian forces ensued after the explosion.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred just days after Islamist militants raided the headquarters of a five-nation African force in Bamako, leaving six people dead.
A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the U.N. chief condemns the attack and "reiterates the determination of the United Nations to continue to support together with the international forces ... the tireless efforts of the Malian authorities and people toward he stabilization of their country."
The upsurge in violence comes as Mali readies for its presidential election July 29.