Attacks in the Northern Mali town of Menaka were confirmed Tuesday by Lieutenant Colonel Diarran Kone in the country's National Public Information Service. "We are facing some bandits, and we have had some attacks," said Kone.
A liberation movement formed by mostly ethnic Tuaregs has claimed responsibility for the attacks. But Kone called the group behind the attacks common criminals and downplayed claims the fight is based along ethnic lines. "I don't want to make difference between the ethnic groups," he added.
Kone said many Tuaregs who work with him in the government, and he did not want to paint the attacks as an ethnic conflict.
Menaka is a bastion for the separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, known as the NMLA, who has claimed responsibility. The area has recently seen the arrival of increased numbers of former Libya combatants.
According to the Associated Press, NMLA leader Moussa Ag Acharatoumane said his group was behind Tuesday's attack,and added their goal is to liberate Menaka and surrounding towns.
Both Mali and neighboring Niger have raised concerns over the influx of fighters who were loyal to Moammar Gadhafi,after the Libyan leader was killed in a civil war last year.