Fighting has broken out in northeastern Mali between a coalition of Tuareg rebels and a Tuareg group allied with the government of this West African country.

Fahad Ag Almahmoud, secretary-general for GATIA, the government-allied group, said the fighting happened Saturday in Edjerer, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Kidal against the Coordination of Azawad Movements, a coalition of groups seeking autonomy in northern Mali that includes ethnic Arabs and Tuaregs. He said they killed at least six of the coalition's fighters.

Almouzamile Ag Mohamed, spokesman for a group in the coalition, confirmed the fighting. The groups blamed each other for its start.

Residents said French forces were out on the streets in Kidal to protect civilians. Fighting last week between the groups in Kidal killed at least 16 people.