GENEVA -- The UN refugee agency says the military clashes in northern Mali are adding to the already enormous numbers of people who have fled its recent conflicts.

Agency spokesman Adrian Edwards says 1,230 refugees from Mali arrived in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania as a result of the clashes between the French-backed Malian army and al Qaeda linked Islamist groups.

Edwards said Tuesday that the situation inside Mali is less clear, but hundreds, and possibly thousands, have fled the fighting.

He says that in 2012, close to 200,000 people fled their homes in northern Mali and are on the move within the country, while 144,500 Malians have fled to neighbouring countries because of instability.