An Islamic State-linked group killed around 40 civilians this week in a northern region of Mali that has been plagued by clashes between rival jihadist groups, local sources told AFP on Friday.
"There are at least 40 civilian deaths in three different sites" in the Tessit area near the borders of Burkina Faso and Niger, a civilian official in the area told AFP.
The official, whose name was withheld for security reasons, said that the death toll was still provisional because information was patchy and coming in slowly from the remote and dangerous area, where witnesses had scattered.
"These civilians have been accused by one (jihadist) group of complicity with the other group," the official said.
Two Tessit residents based in the regional capital Gao and national capital Bamako, whose names were also withheld, confirmed to AFP the scale of the violence after speaking with witnesses who had fled.
Moussa Ag Acharatoumane, a spokesman for a group of armed northern militias, reported a similar death toll.
The latest bloodshed took place in the "three borders" area, a hotspot of violence in the jihadist insurgency that first emerged in the Sahel country in 2013, before spreading to Burkina Faso and Niger.
The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS) and the Sahel's largest jihadist alliance, the al-Qaeda-aligned GSIM group, are particularly active in the area.
As well as attacking local and foreign troops, they have been fighting each other for territory since 2020.
Mali's ruling junta, which seized power in a coup in 2020 after rising public outrage about elected leaders' inability to stem the jihadist bloodshed, have yet to speak about the Tessit violence.
On Friday, Mali's army-led government told France to withdraw its forces from the country "without delay".
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday announced that he was withdrawing his nation's troops which had been fighting jihadists in the Sahel country since 2014.