Suspected Islamist fighters attacked a military camp in western Mali near the border with neighboring Mauritania before dawn on Saturday, leaving up to 11 people dead.
Residents of a nearby village hid in their homes, officials and witnesses said.
A senior army officer said military intelligence and initial witness accounts indicated the attackers were Islamist fighters mainly from the Peuhl ethnic group, Voice of America reported.
The raid took place a week after a Tuareg-led northern rebel alliance signed a peace deal with the government aimed at ending their uprising and allowing the authorities to focus on fighting Islamist militants.
Gunfire erupted at around 5 a.m. (0500 GMT) in the town of Nara, around 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of border with Mauritania, said army spokesman Col. Souleymane Maiga.
"The army repelled the attackers who had entrenched themselves in the village," Maiga said.
"Until around 9 a.m. there were exchanges of fire between the army and the assailants in the streets of the village," he added.
A resident of Nara said gunfire could be heard several hours after the clashes began and town residents locked themselves inside their homes. Heavy fighting flared again around midday before ending in the early afternoon.