Timbuktu. Mali
Timbuktu. Mali

BAMAKO, MALI - Tuareg rebels shot at United Nations peacekeepers outside the town of Timbuktu in northern Mali on Tuesday in a sign of growing tensions that threaten a fragile peace process, the U.N. mission in the West African country said.

"They fired at us and they then called us to tell us that they thought we were [Malian government soldiers], that it was a mistake," mission spokesman Olivier Salgado said, noting that no one had been wounded in the shooting.

A town resident told Reuters that automatic gunfire erupted outside of Timbuktu around 6.30 a.m. (0630 GMT), and a soldier based there said that Malian government forces had also come under fire.

"Some National Guard positions were targeted from a distance by armed men aboard vehicles. Patrols were sent out and found the tracks of several pick-ups," he said, asking not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the press.

The violence comes a day after pro-government armed groups seized Menaka, another northern town, from the separatists during fierce fighting that ended months of relative calm between the government and its supporters and the rebels.