Local rights groups in Mali warn that the army and its allies are torturing and killing civilians from an ethnic group accused of collaborating with Islamic militants.

The violence is taking place in central Mali, where an extremist group known as the Macina Liberation Front is becoming more active.

Sekou Bah, the secretary-general of Dental Wuwarbe, a local group representing members of the Peuhl ethnic group, said at least eight people have been killed this year by soldiers. Another group, Association of Peuhls, alleges a higher toll of 15.

Col. Diarran Kone, a spokesman for Mali's Defense Ministry, said he was not aware of the reports and encouraged the groups to come forward with their evidence.