At least 12 dead in Mali attack near Nigeria: sources

About 200 people, many of them civilians from the Fulani and Tuareg tribes, have been killed in the area this year as militants claiming allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) clash with local groups backing a French security force and the Malian army.

FILE: An armed Malian military man sits on the back of a truck on 17 May 2014 after around 30 civilians and soldiers went missing following clashes between separatist militants and the Malian army in the rebel-controlled northern city of Kidal. Picture: AFP.

BAMAKO - At least 12 Touareg civilians died Tuesday in an attack by gunmen in eastern Mali, a region hit by chronic unrest between local tribes and jihadist militants, sources said.

About 200 people, many of them civilians from the Fulani and Tuareg tribes have been killed in the area this year as militants claiming allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) clash with local groups backing a French security force and the Malian army.

The attack took place 45 kilometres west of Menaka according to a local official, a security source, and a statement by ex-rebels in the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA).

"Armed men on motorcycles killed at least 12 civilians," the official told AFP, citing a resident of the town who claimed to have seen the bodies.

The official, who asked to remain anonymous, added that "for now we do not know exactly who did it. I don't know if it was the result of a dispute between tribes or a terrorist act."

The security source said some of his sources spoke of 12 dead, while others put the toll at 16.

The MSA statement said "armed individuals on motorcycles had executed 17 civilians" from two Tuareg camps.

Mali's unrest stems from a 2012 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.