"We arrested two young men early this morning. They had explosive belts and they were riding on two donkeys," Oumar Maiga, the son of the village chief, told the AFP news agency.
He said the pair, an Arab and a Tuareg, were detained some 20 kilometres north of Gao, the largest city in the north, on the same road where Friday's attack occurred.
In that attack a young Tuareg, dressed as a paramilitary officer, rode a motorcycle to an army checkpoint and detonated an explosive belt, wounding a soldier, an officer says. A larger bomb that he was also carrying failed to go off.
The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao) claimed responsibility for the attack.
"We claim today's attack against the Malian soldiers who chose the side of the miscreants, the enemies of Islam," Mujao spokesperson Abou Walid Sahraoui said.
The Malian army beefed up security in the Gao region on Saturday morning.
In other Mali news:
- President Dioncounda Traoré condemned the “fratricidal shooting” that broke out between soldiers, killing two civilians, when troops loyal to deposed president Amadou Toumani Traoré fired in the air in protest at being sent to other units;
- The first 70 of 500 EU military trainers has arrived under French general François Lecointre;
- A Bamako court issued arrest warrants for leaders of Islamist groups Ansar Dine and Mujao, drug smuggler Baba Ould Cheikh and the leaders of the Tuareg separatist MNLA;
- US officials are thinking of putting Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the mastermind behind the attack on the In Amenas gas field in Algeria, on a death list, the Wall Street Journal claims.