At least 51 people were killed when militants raided three villages in central Mali near the border with Niger, a district administrator said on Monday.
The towns of Ouatagouna, Karou and Deouteguef were simultaneously attacked at around 6pm on Sunday, according to a note from the Asongo district administrator to the governor of Gao region.
Houses were ransacked and burned to the ground and herds of livestock carried away, said the note, which was seen by Reuters.
“Provisional toll is 51 killed, several other injured,” it said.
No group has yet taken responsibility for the attacks in the area where Malian troops, French and European forces, and United Nations peacekeepers have been battling insurgents linked to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.
Mali’s army spokesman Colonel Souleymane Dembele confirmed the attacks but gave no further details.
Other local sources told Reuters that the militants stationed themselves at the towns’ entrances and fired indiscriminately upon civilians.
The administrator said Malian troops were sweeping the area. He also requested a military escort to “help with the funerals, reassure the populations and offer condolences to the bereaved families”, according to the note.