DAKAR, Senegal ––Suspected jihadists in northern Mali killed three members of an armed pro-government group last Saturday, according to security sources.

The incidence occurred a day after extremists freed two hostages held since July in the troubled region.

Eyewitnesses and members of the peace enforcement operation in the region say Jihadists continue to wander the north and center of the African country, despite being ejected from key northern towns by an ongoing French-led military intervention in 2013.

“Three members of the GATIA group were killed by terrorists in the vicinity of Anderamboukane, near the border with Niger,” a top Malian security source said on condition of anonymity.

According to a local administrative source who confirmed the death toll, the paramilitary group has been working with the Malian army to secure part of Mali’s north.

“The GATIA fighters had taken control of an area of Anderamboukane that the terrorists came and attacked,” the source added.

GATIA, (Imghad and Allies Tuareg Self-Defence Group) signed a 2015 peace deal with members of the country’s former rebel alliance that are aimed at quelling uprisings in the north, but both sides have repeatedly violated a ceasefire, despite supporting the central government in Bamako.

A Malian civilian and a retired soldier who had been taken hostage since July 2017 by Islamists were freed on last Friday in the Timbuktu region in Mali’s northwest, according to a local government representative.

Jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda hijacked by and later seized control of key northern cities during a 2012 rebellion by the Tuareg-led rebels. The move triggered international military intervention the following year.