BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Malian soldiers publicly killed nine residents of a Tuareg village in the country's north, a coalition of separatist groups said on Friday, and the U.N. said a team has been sent to investigate.
The nine civilians were first arrested by an armed group allied with the army in the village of Tin Hama, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Menaka, said a statement from the Coordination of Azawad Movements.
"The Malian army proceeded to summarily and publicly execute nine people," it said, adding that the bodies were still left in public 15 hours after the execution.
An army spokesman, Col. Souleymane Maiga, said: "These are actions that I condemn and we are starting an investigation soon so that we know what happened."
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali said in a statement that an investigation team was deployed Friday in Tin Hama to "establish the facts" behind the allegations.
The Associated Press, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International had reported abuses by Mali's army against civilians in 2013. The army has denied the accusations.
Such abuses have been reported on all sides of the conflict in Mali's north since early 2012 after Tuaregs took over the north, then lost areas to Islamic extremist groups. A French-led 2013 operation then pushed extremists out.
The latest round of violence began on April 27 when separatists say armed groups allied with the military took over the Tuareg-held town of Menaka. The coalition of separatists then launched attacks in central and northern Mali, and the fighting has killed at least 40 people, according to government figures.
Associated Press writer Cara Anna at the United Nations contributed.