Bamako, Mali -

A Malian defence official says clashes have broken out in recent days in the north of the county between factions of Tuareg separatists.

The violence came just days before peace talks are scheduled to begin in Algeria on Wednesday. The talks between the Bamako-based government and Tuareg separatists are aimed at restoring stability in the north, which fell under the control of al-Qaeda-linked Islamic extremists in 2012. A French-led military intervention scattered the extremists last year.

Lieutenant-Colonel Diarran Kone, a defence ministry adviser, said on Sunday that the army was not involved in the clashes. He did not have information on casualties.

But Attaye Ag Mohamed, spokesman for the Tuareg MNLA group, said the group had killed 43 “militiamen” he claimed were supported by the Malian army. - Sapa-AP