updated 1/6/2011 6:30:44 AM ET 2011-01-06T11:30:44

A man who attacked the French embassy in Mali by setting alight a small gas cylinder has claimed he is a member of the al-Qaida terror network and a Tunisian citizen, police said Thursday.

Abdoulaye Sow, who runs the police station where the detained man was brought for questioning after Wednesday's attack, said the assailant did not have any identity documents with him and the claims could not be confirmed.

The assault on the French diplomatic compound in Mali's capital was unsophisticated.

It was carried out by a single man who police say fired several gunshots and set a gas cylinder alight and threw it, wounding two people and causing only minor damage to one of the embassy's outer gates.

French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Christine Fages said she had no information on the motives of the attack, but said one embassy official was lightly wounded. Police in Mali said two people were injured in the attack.

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French interests targeted
Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb operates in the former French colony and has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping last year of five French citizens and two others who worked at a French-owned uranium mine in neighboring Niger.

AQIM is believed to have taken the seven people across the desert into neighboring Mali.

AQIM grew out of an Islamist insurgency movement in Algeria that merged with al-Qaida in 2006.

It has since spread through the Sahara and the arid Sahel region, and in recent years has increasingly been targeting French interests.

In 2009, a man wearing an explosive belt tried to blow himself up in front of the French embassy in Nouakchott.

Late last year, France rejected a reported demand from al-Qaida to negotiate with Osama bin Laden over the fate of five French hostages seized in Niger.

The five, as well as two people from Togo and Madagascar, were kidnapped Sept. 16 as they slept in the Niger uranium mining town of Arlit.

AQIM, which is believed to have about 400 fighters active from Niger to Mauritania, conducts the bulk of its attacks — bombings or ambushes — in Algeria.

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