An army commander says Malian special forces have arrested six Islamic extremists suspected of plotting an attack in the capital.

Modibo Naman Traore said Saturday the plot began to unravel on Thursday, when the first suspect was arrested on the main road south to Bamako from the central city of Mopti. He said the man was carrying 9,900 euros ($11,000) as well as plans for an attack that were to be delivered to militants in Bamako.

Traore said special forces then detained three men and two women in the capital.

The network has links to Ansar Dine, which has claimed responsibility for recent attacks in southern Mali, Traore said.

Officials in Bamako issued a "red alert" on Friday warning residents to avoid large gathering spaces.