BAMAKO, Mali (Reuters) - Malian government soldiers fought mutinous paratroops in the capital Bamako on Friday in a clash that threatened to undermine a French-led military operation to drive al Qaeda-allied Islamist rebels from the north.

Local residents fled in panic as heavy gunfire echoed from the Djikoroni-Para paratrooper base on the Niger River in western Bamako as Malian army units with armored vehicles surrounded the camp.