Nine killed in clashes between separatists and Islamists in Mali

BAMAKO Fri May 2, 2014 4:06pm EDT

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BAMAKO (Reuters) - Nine people were killed in clashes in northern Mali this week between suspected Islamists and Tuareg separatist forces, separatist and military sources said on Friday.

The clashes north of the city of Timbuktu involved separatists and suspected members of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), a group linked to al Qaeda, said a separatist spokesman and two military sources who declined to be identified.

"The fighting is over," said Akay Ag Mohamed, a spokesman in the northern town of Kidal for the separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). "The MNLA fighters have returned to Kidal. We took seven prisoners and killed nine of the enemy."

The landlocked former French colony of Mali was thrown into turmoil when Islamist fighters took advantage of a 2012 rebellion led by Tuaregs and seized control of the country's north.

French troops drove back the Islamists last year, elections were held and a U.N. peace-keeping mission of thousands of French and U.N. troops has been established. But isolated attacks by Islamists have persisted.

A spokesman for the U.N. military mission in Mali, MINUSMA, said he had been informed of clashes but declined to give further details.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo and Dakar bureau; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Larry King)

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