At least 10 civilians have been killed in a possible jihadist attack in Mali’s northeast, close to the border with Niger, according to armed Touareg groups and local authorities.
More than 100 people, including numerous civilians, have been killed in recent months in the unstable region, where jihadist groups who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group operate.
On Sunday, “armed bandits linked to local criminal groups operating on the Mali-Niger border overran Injagalane,” a statement by two Touareg armed groups said, referring to the jihadists.
“They opened fire on civilians,” the groups said, adding that 12 people were killed and three vehicles set on fire.
“They are attacking all communities without exception,” the statement added.
The attack was confirmed by an official from the government in Menaka, the main city in the area.
“Armed men on motorbikes overran the market in Injagalane,” the official said speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They fired into the crowd, at least 14 people were killed, and cars and motorbikes were set on fire,” the source added.
There have been a string of attacks across Mali in recent months, highlighting the fragile security situation in the West African nation as it prepares to hold elections on July 29.
Mali’s unrest stems from a 2012 ethnic Tuareg separatist uprising, which was exploited by jihadists in order to take over key cities in the north.
The extremists were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.
But large stretches of the country remain outside of the control of the foreign and Malian forces, which are frequent targets of attacks, despite a peace accord signed with Tuareg leaders in mid-2015 aimed at isolating the jihadists.
The violence has also spilt into Burkina Faso and Niger.