Bamako - Three people were
killed on Friday during clashes between the MNLA Tuareg separatist
group and the Malian army in the north of the country, the MNLA said in a
statement, accusing the Malian army of violating a ceasefire agreement.
The MNLA said on its
website that the Malian army arrested "several civilians, and executed
three of them, wounding three others," near Menaka.
Malian defense ministry, however, describing the same incident, said a
group of armed bandits had attacked a Malian army patrol in the same
"Three were killed and four were wounded. A vehicle, arms, ammunition and communications equipment were seized," the defense ministry said in a statement late on Friday.
rebels seized control of the northern town of Kidal and some
surrounding areas after a French-led military offensive in January drove
out Islamist militants who had occupied northern Mali.
army has clashed several times since with the rebels, despite a June
ceasefire deal to allow presidential elections to go ahead in the remote
region in Mali's desert north, while MNLA fighters had agreed to remain
in barracks in Kidal.
Malian army official told Reuters that MNLA fighters attacked a joint
patrol of Malian and U.N. troops near the town of Menaka early on
"The MNLA fighters
fired first. The patrol returned fire. There were up to three killed
among the MNLA," the official in Gao - northern Mali's biggest city -
told Reuters by phone earlier on Friday, requesting not to be
Olivier Salgado, spokesman for the U.N. mission in Mali, confirmed the incident.
was at least one death on the MNLA side. Two suspects were arrested and
one vehicle with arms on board was seized," Salgado told Reuters by
phone from the capital, Bamako, saying it was possible more than one
Tuareg fighter was killed. He said the circumstances of the incident
were being investigated.
resident Aliou Chabane said the army was ambushed while on its way to
respond to an earlier MNLA attack on a truck transporting civilians.
"MNLA opened fire on the army, who retaliated. Three MNLA fighters were killed," Chabane said.
Menaka is about 400 km (249 miles) south of Kidal, but still in Mali's vast desert north.
Mali imploded last year when the Tuareg rebels took up arms in the north, triggering a coup in Bamako.
took advantage of the chaos and seized the north, stoking fears in the
West that the zone would become a launch pad for militant attacks and a
safe haven for criminal gangs operating alongside the various rebel
The U.N. force in
Mali, known as MINUSMA, is supposed to take over from an African
mission and French forces and has the job of stabilizing the country.