Local officials in Mali say the Malian military is clashing with rebels from the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, or NMLA, near the village of Anefis in northeast Mali.

It marks the first time the Malian military has engaged the Tuareg separatists since a French-led military intervention made it possible for the country's army to return to most of its positions in the north.

Mayor of Anefis Izga Ag Sidi said the fighting began at 6:30 a.m. He said, "We are hearing the sound of artillery. For the moment they appear to be exchanging fire from a distance."

The NMLA invaded northern Mali in March 2012 and briefly declared independence before being chased out by al-Qaida-linked rebel groups. Anefis is 113 kilometers (70 miles) southeast of Kidal.