Two suicide car-bombers killed three people in northern Mali today a day after 20 people were killed in street fighting between French-led forces and Islamist militants.
The two attacks near the town of Tessalit targeted civilians and members of the ethnic Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad.
A spokesman in Burkina Faso confirmed the report and blamed the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao), one of Mali's main Islamist groups.
The French-led forces are increasingly facing guerilla attacks after initially meeting little resistance in their drive to oust Islamist militants from the northern cities of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu.
The Mujao made no comment on the latest attacks, but on Thursday a spokesman warned: "More explosions will happen across our territory."
He also said the group had sent fighters to Gao, where battles erupted on Wednesday when fighters infiltrated the city.
The Islamists briefly occupied the courthouse and city hall but Malian and French troops backed by French helicopters repelled the attack on Thursday.
The French Defence Ministry said today that between 15 and 20 militants had been killed.
Sporadic gunfire was still being heard in Gao today.
Mujao spokesman Abu Walid Sahraoui said the rebels were determined to recapture the city: "Our troops have been ordered to attack. If the enemy is stronger, we'll pull back only to return stronger, until we liberate Gao."
Malian Prime Minister Diango Cissoko said this week that large-scale military operations in the north were winding down, but sporadic fighting has continued.
In Nouakchott, the capital of neighbouring Mauritania, dozens of Malian Arabs demonstrated on Thursday to denounce abuses that they said had been committed by Malian troops against light-skinned Malians, particularly Arabs, in the north.
Human Rights Watch urged Bamako to act saying: "The Malian government should urgently investigate and prosecute soldiers responsible for torture, summary executions and enforced disappearances of suspected Islamist rebels and alleged collaborators."
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