A local official says unidentified gunmen killed two soldiers in central Mali near the border with Burkina Faso.

Soumaila Djimde, mayor of Koro region where the attack occurred, said the gunmen arrived early Saturday in a white pickup truck and opened fire on a military checkpoint in the town of Dinangourou. He said the gunmen stole a military vehicle and that Mali's army had sent reinforcements to the area.

Northern Mali was occupied in 2012 by al-Qaida and other jihadist groups before a French-led military operation drove them out of cities and towns. The extremists have since launched regular attacks against the Malian military and international peacekeepers.

The International Crisis Group warned this month that violence including jihadist attacks was "escalating at an alarming rate" in central Mali.