Gunmen killed 12 soldiers and wounded more than 30 in an attack early Tuesday on an army camp in central Mali, the government said, and a movement within the Peul ethnic group claimed responsibility.
Spokesman Mountaga Tall confirmed the death toll to reporters after emerging from a defense meeting with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
A group called the National Alliance for the Protection of the Peul Identity and the Restoration of Justice told The Associated Press it had carried out the attack on the city of Nampala.
This was the first time the group, formed in recent months, had assaulted a Malian army position.
"We attacked Nampala this morning to respond to the deadly attacks by the Malian army against our Peul population," said Oumar Aldjana, the group's secretary-general.
He said several trucks and stocks of ammunition were seized and that three members of his group were wounded.
Aldjana said his group is not an extremist one. "We used the slogan `Allahu Akbar' during the attack, but that has nothing to do with jihadism," he said.