A security official says jihadists have launched a rare attack on a central Malian town, killing two soldiers and forcing the rest of the military to flee the area.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists, said a dozen vehicles stormed the town of Nampala around 5 a.m. Monday.

The town is located 340 miles (550 kilometers) northeast of the capital of Bamako, along the border with Mauritania.

No immediate claim of responsibility was issued but suspicion fell on al-Qaida militants in the Wagadou forest.

Islamic militants controlled northern Mali until a French-led war forced them into the surrounding desert almost two years ago.