Fresh fighting erupted yesterday in northern Mali between ethnic Tuareg and an unidentified armed group, security sources said, the latest violence in the wake of a French-led campaign that drove radical Islamist fighters from major cities.
Tuareg of the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) were fighting what one source said "seemed to be Arab fighters" near the town of Tessalit, where suicide car bombers killed three people on Friday.
An al-Qaeda-linked Islamist rebel group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), yesterday claimed responsibility for the bombings in In-Khalil near Tessalit, saying they were targeting the MNLA, which has been co-operating with French forces to drive Islamists from northern Mali.
"Through the car bombings against MNLA elements in the In-Khalil zone, the MUJAO is committed to pursuing jihad against infidels," group spokesman Adnan Abu Walid Sahraoui said in a statement.
He warned that future suicide attacks were planned in Mali's capital as well as in the capitals of Burkina Faso and Niger, whose troops are part of the African force in Mali.
He also demanded that the groups holding French hostages in the Sahel region and in Niger kill their victims in revenge against France, which he accused of "staging a crusade against Islam and Muslims".
Seven members of a French family, including four young children, were seized by kidnappers in Cameroon on Tuesday and are believed to have been taken over the border into Nigeria.