Malians have trickled to the polls amid high security for a legislative ballot.

The vote is the second set of elections since France intervened this year to oust al-Qaeda-linked militants from the north of the country.

The west African country has suffered a surge in Islamist violence since President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was elected in August in polls that marked a return to democracy after a March 2012 coup.

The coup plunged Mali into chaos and allowed Islamists to seize its desert north.

6.7m people were registered to cast their vote in 25,000 bureaux across the nation.

Initial turnout appeared much lower than in August's vote.

Malian soldiers, French troops and UN peacekeepers protected voting stations in the north following a resurgence of Islamist violence.

Gao, the largest city in northern Mali, was targeted in a rocket attack on Thursday by suspected Islamists.

The election of a new parliament will complete the democratic transition in the wake of last year's coup.

Donors have pledged €2.8bn to rebuild the impoverished country and develop its desert north.

1,087 candidates from 410 electoral lists are competing for the 147 seats in the national assembly. A second round will be held on 15 December in constituencies where there is no majority winner in the first round.

Political analysts expected Keita, commonly known by his initials IBK, and his allies to comfortably win the election after he swept the 11 August presidential runoff by a landslide.

France, which has more than 2,000 troops stationed in Mali, aims to reduce its military presence to 1,000 by February as it hands security responsibilities to the Malian army and the UN force.

The UN mission, launched in July, is still at roughly half its 12,600 planned strength.