Military officials said 12 people, including three soldiers, were killed in clashes with armed groups in western town of Nara in Mali on Saturday, near the border with neighbouring Mauritania.
A Mali army representative said that the clashes erupted some 30 kilometers south of the Mauritanian border at around 5am on Saturday.
The defence ministry said that the assailants were not identified.
A senior army officer said that military intelligence and eyewitness identified the attackers as fighters, mostly from the Peuhl ethnic group.
An armed Massia Liberation Front, which draws its members from Peuhl ethnic group, is suspected to have fought with Malian army in the central Mopti region earlier this months and has been blamed for a growing number of attacks.
After heavy fighting, the army regained control of the town in the early afternoon.
The Defense Ministry’s statement said that the gunmen attacked a military camp in the town while an army representative said they also targeted a bank.
"They then occupied the prefecture. Their methods indicate an infiltration in advance and a well planned operation," said Souleymane Dembele, the army's information director.
Issa Traore, a resident of Nara, said: "The last few days we've informed the military authorities about the presence of strange men in the town." He also added that he saw four bodies lying in the streets and one of them was a Malian soldier.
On June 20, just a week before the raid, the government of Mali and Tuareg-led northern armed groups signed a peace deal to withdraw from the northern town of Menaka and end their uprising.
The previous clash between the separatist groups and the Malian security forces arose in Menaka in late April.
The armed factions of the so-called ‘Platform’ movement announced that they had disarmed, complying to the agreement.
The fight between the armed groups in northern Mali started in 2012 for independence or greater autonomy.
Tuareg forces, Mali’s biggest rebel organization, had taken control of the region by April 2012.
Since 1962, Tuareg group has launched four uprisings fighting the army over the territory they claim as their homeland and call Azawad.