Bamako: At least eight people were killed in a gun attack on Monday on a Malian Army base close to the Mauritanian border, a UN military source said.
The assault, claimed in one report by al Qaeda-linked militants, took place at the base in Nampala near the border with Mauritania, where armed groups operate.
Gunmen slipped into the camp in the morning and opened fire, a source in the UN's MINUSMA mission in the country told a news agency.
At least eight people died n the attack, the military source said, a figure echoed by a Malian who escaped the scene.
"For now I cannot say who the dead were. They were all wearing military fatigues," another military source said, adding that two injured Malian soldiers were being treated in the home of the town's mayor.
The Mauritanian news agency Al-Akhbar cited sources from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claiming responsibility for the attack.
"We have occupied Nampala without a major combat. We have killed Malian soldiers and we are holding others," the sources said, without giving figures.
The UN source said unidentified fighters managed to get into the camp "with relative ease" at about 0615 GMT and started shooting, with Malian troops returning fire.
Fighting went on for more than three and a half hours, with the attackers only retreating at 1100 GMT.
"Reconnaissance and fighter planes from the French-led Barkhane (security) operation overflew the Nampala area in the afternoon to intervene if necessary," the UN source added, in comments confirmed by French and Malian sources.
The attack is the deadliest in Mali since nine Niger peacekeepers were killed last October.
A Defence Ministry spokesman confirmed the fighting in Nampala, 530 kilometres (330 miles) northeast of the Malian capital Bamako.
"Our positions were attacked early this morning... We confronted the enemy and reinforcements are now being sent from a neighbouring area to Nampala," he said.