At least 16 members of an Islamist sect were killed when Malian soldiers opened fire on their vehicle in the central region of Segou overnight, a government official and police said Sunday.
The incident occurred in the town of Diabali, but it was not immediately clear if the presence of Islamists in the area signified an advance by the jihadists who have controlled northern Mali for five months.
"Sixteen members of the Dawa sect who would not stop their vehicule after warning shots were fired were treated as enemies in Diabali Saturday night," a security ministry official said, updating the previous toll of 14 dead.
"The new toll is 16 dead. There are Malians and Mauritanians. They are members of a Muslim sect," a police officer confirmed.A Diabali resident said earlier the men had been on their way to a "religious meeting" in Mali, but did not give details.
An army officer said the soldiers opened fire as they came across two groups of Islamists who tried to take over the Diabali military post, but did not give a toll, saying only: "They were wiped out."