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Jul 21, 4:20 PM EDT

Rebels, pro-government group clash in northern Mali



DAKAR, Senegal (AP) -- Fighting has broken out in northern Mali between a coalition of Tuareg rebels and a Tuareg group allied with the government of the West African country.

A spokesman for the rebel coalition, Mohamed Elmaouloud Ramadane, told The Associated Press on Thursday that fighting was under way in the city of Kidal. There was no immediate information on any deaths.

The fighting was between the government-allied militia group GATIA and the Coordination of Azawad Movements, a coalition of groups seeking autonomy in northern Mali that includes ethnic Arabs and Tuaregs.

Ramadane said the fighting began when a convoy of GATIA vehicles entered the city and started firing on the homes of coalition leaders.

But a GATIA spokesman, Fahad Ag Al Mahmoud, said coalition members had started firing on the GATIA convoy.

Kidal, located in a remote desert region, is the northern headquarters for a U.N. peacekeeping force that has come under multiple deadly attacks.

Both of the groups had signed on to a peace deal in June 2015 between Mali's government and armed groups in the northern part of the country.

Tuareg separatists took hold of Mali's north in 2012 before al-Qaida-linked militants took control. French forces pushed them out of their strongholds in 2013. Since then, the north has remained on edge, with more than 11,000 United Nations soldiers and thousands of Malian troops maintaining an uneasy peace.

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