The violence occurred in the northern desert area between Gao and Kidal, just a few days before peace talks are to begin between the different warring factions of the Tuareg separatists.
According to an army source, those killed in the most recent clashes belonged to the main Tuareg separatist group National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and a group of northern Malian Arabs called Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA).
MNLA spokesman, Mohamed Ag Attaye, however, said in a statement that 35 were killed from the Malian army and other “militias” and accused government forces for starting the violence.
Last year, France dispatched troops to Mali to put an end to an advance by rebels. Currently, the European former colonial master has 1700 troops in Mali and has signalled intentions to reorganise its forces in Mali and surrounding countries into a single regional body.
“It’s a regional operation to ensure the security of the area and prevent jihadist groups from emerging again,” French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Europe 1 radio.
The United Nations has also deployed a peacekeeping force in Mali which operates separately from French troops.
Source: Al Jazeera