Suspected jihadists on motorcycles have killed at least 42 people during a series of attacks on Tuareg nomadic camps in Mali, local leaders said on Thursday.
Moussa Ag Acharatoumane, a Tuareg self-defense official, said the attacks took place Tuesday and Wednesday in the sprawling West African nation's eastern Menaka region. The victims, who included children as young as eight, were members of his group known as MSA, which has been fighting militants with ties to the Islamic State group who are active in the region.
This week's violence risks setting off a new cycle of intercommunal clashes in the Menaka region, where 100 civilians have already been killed this year. In September, similar motorcycle gangs attacked a nomadic community near Mali's border with Niger, killing at least 12 civilians.
Meanwhile, Malian authorities said Thursday they had arrested four men accused of planning attacks before the end of the year in several major West African capitals. Malian intelligence services said the men "were preparing to carry out attacks on certain sensitive targets" in the cities of Abidjan in Ivory Coast, Bamako in Mali and Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso.
The statement implicated the men in March attacks in Ouagadougou and said their group had become "a recruitment operation" for Islamic-inspired militants.
The intelligence services also said a preliminary investigation "proved that the four terrorists also participated in the kidnapping of Colombian nun Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez" who was abducted in February 2017.