Army says eight soldiers escaped attack on around a dozen vehicles in northwest Bouka Were, around 100 kilometres from border with Mauritania.
At least 456 people were killed in central Mali last year, and hundreds more were wounded, says Human Rights Watch.
Malian authorities revised the death toll down to 35 from a previous estimate of 95. On Monday, a militant group massacred villagers from the Dogon ethnic group in southern Mali.
The Malian prime minister resigned along with his entire government, after criticism over failure to clamp down on deadly violence.
Attackers dressed as traditional Dogon hunters targeted Fulani herders in the villages of Ogossagou and Welingara in Mopti region, officials say.
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