Six people were killed in north-eastern Mali on Thursday in disputed circumstances, with French forces saying a strike targeted jihadists and local residents alleging those left dead were young hunters.
Six young people from Talataye were buried on Thursday after being killed in a strike, local residents said.
Mayor Mohamed Assaleh Ahmad told AFP four were under 16 while two were between 18 and 20.
“This is a group of young people, including minors, who decided to spend the day outside the village of Talataye on board three motorcycles and armed with a hunting rifle to shoot rabbits and partridge,” he said.
“Around 10:30 am, witnesses around reported explosions and claim to have seen planes in the air. It is impossible to know if they were French planes or not.”
A municipal councillor said he saw a drone fire west of Talataye.
France’s Barkhane anti-jihadist force issued a statement on what appeared to be the same incident, saying intelligence and identity checks indicated the presence of an armed group.
It said it “carried out a strike neutralising” the group, while also indicating three motorcycles were destroyed. It did not say how many people were killed.
It was not possible to immediately verify either account in the remote and dangerous location.
Questions were also raised in January over a strike in Bounti in central Mali, with villagers and an association having alleged an air strike hit a wedding and killed around 20 people.
French and Malian authorities have maintained that a French strike had targeted and killed dozens of jihadists and that there was no wedding.
The UN mission in Mali has conducted an investigation with results still pending.
France first sent troops into Mali in early 2013 to fight Islamist insurgents who had seized control of the country’s northern half, with the Barkhane operation formally starting in August 2014.