The United Nations mission in Mali said it would deploy additional troops to secure areas where the attacks took place and intensify existing patrols.

A general view shows the damage at the site of an attack on the Dogon village of Sobane Da, Mali, June 11, 2019.
A general view shows the damage at the site of an attack on the Dogon village of Sobane Da, Mali, June 11, 2019. (Reuters Archive)

At least 51 people have been killed as militants raided three villages in central Mali near the border with Niger.

Ouatagouna, Karou and Deouteguef were simultaneously attacked around 6 pm on Sunday, according to a note from the Asongo district administrator to the governor of Gao region on Monday.

The United Nations mission in Mali said it would deploy additional troops to secure areas where the attacks took place and intensify existing patrols.

READ MORE: UN: French strike in remote Mali village killed 19 civilians in January

Houses were ransacked and burned to the ground and herds of livestock carried away, said the administrator's note, which was seen by Reuters.

"Provisional toll is 51 killed, several other injured," it said.

No group has yet taken responsibility for the attacks in the area where Malian troops, French and European forces, and UN peacekeepers have been battling insurgents linked to Deash and Al Qaeda.

"These deliberate attacks against civilian populations constitute serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law," the UN statement said.

"They are liable to be classified as crimes against humanity."

Local sources told Reuters that militants stationed themselves at the towns' entrances and fired indiscriminately upon civilians.

The administrator said Malian troops were sweeping the area. He also requested a military escort to "help with the funerals, reassure the populations and offer condolences to the bereaved families", according to the note.

Mali's army spokesman Colonel Souleymane Dembele confirmed the attacks but gave no further details.

Former colonial power France announced in June that it would end its eight-year military operation in Mali, which sought to drive back Al Qaeda-linked groups, instead committing troops to broader international efforts in the region.

READ MORE: Six troops killed, 15 UN peacekeepers wounded in separate Mali attacks

Source: Reuters