Dozens of civilians and members of a Tuareg rebel group that signed a peace deal with the government have been killed in northeast Mali by suspected jihadists, military and security sources said Friday.
A military source told AFP that civilians and combatants from the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA) died in a string of attacks this week in the Menaka region, which borders Niger.
The MSA, which operates from Menaka, signed a government peace accord in 2015 to try to restore stability to northern Mali, the cradle of an insurgency that broke out in 2012.
The MSA accused the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (IS-GS), an affiliate of the broader Islamic State group, of carrying out the killings.
A source close to Mali’s security ministry confirmed this account, adding “the security and defence forces are preparing to protect people living in the Menaka region.”
An elected representative in the Menaka region, asking not to be named, said, “More than 100 civilians and ex-combatants died on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday,” at Tamalat and Insinane.
MSA official Moussa Acharatoumane told AFP on Friday that about 20 of the group’s combatants and 40 civilians had died.
Another MSA official released a statement saying “terrorist groups are targeting without distinction everything that moves .. sparing in their horror neither women, nor children, nor the elderly.”
However the statement did not give a casualty toll.
According to an MSA statement from Wednesday a “horde of men” from Islamic State had staged an attack on Tamalat.
Elected officials from Menaka told AFP on Friday that MSA combatants and a local pro-government militia called GATIA had decided to take on IS-GS fighters, who roam the border region shared by Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.
Mali’s poorly-equipped armed forces are struggling to contain jihadist insurgents, ethnic violence and criminal gangs.
The Sahel country is in the hands of a military junta that seized power in August 2020.