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Suspected Jihadists Kill 40 Civilians in Northeast Mali

FILE - Malian troops and former Tuareg rebels patrol in Gao, Feb. 23, 2017. The patrols were meant to help calm a region under threat from multiple extremist and other armed groups.

A governor in Mali said Saturday that suspected jihadists had killed at least 40 civilians in two attacks near the country's border with Niger, where attacks have increased in the past year.

Menaka Gov. Daouda Maiga said gunmen on motorbikes staged the assaults Thursday and Friday. He said Fulani members of Islamic State Greater Sahara most likely attacked in retaliation for military actions supported by Tuaregs in the region.

In recent months Tuareg civilian defense groups, supported by French soldiers, have fought against jihadists in northeastern Mali.

The jihadist attacks may also be an attempt to further exploit tensions between Tuaregs and Fulani herdsmen over land.

In early April, the head of the U.N. mission in Mali's human rights division, Guillaume Ngefa, said Tuaregs had killed 95 Fulani civilians in the region.