Tuareg rebels captured 33 Malian government troops during clashes on Thursday in northern Mali in which several rebels were wounded, a local leader said.
Tuareg rebels have captured 33 Malian government troops during clashes in northern Mali, a local leader said on Friday.
"During the fighting on Thursday four Malian soldiers were taken prisoner by rebels led by Ibrahim Ag Bahanga and 29 others were taken hostage," a northern Mali local leader told AFP.
Independent sources confirmed that there were several troops and rebels wounded in the clashes, which took place in the arid, mountainous region of the Adrar des Iforas.
That part of the landlocked west African country is frequented by a Tuareg rebel group led by Ag Bahanga, who took up arms and kidnapped 36 soldiers in August 2007, in spite of a peace pact signed in neighbouring Algeria in July 2006.
The last 22 of those troops were released on March 8, following intervention by Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.
Ag Bahanga is a veteran of two previous insurgencies against the government, which accuses him of being a dissident in Mali's Tuareg community who wants control of the region for a lucrative illegal drug trade.
An independent observer said that recent mine-clearing operations by the army have triggered renewed skirmishes with Tuareg fighters, who fear the activity near the Algerian border is a precursor to an attack.
Five civilians including a child were killed Friday when their vehicle ran over a landmine, and three government soldiers were killed on Thursday when their mine-clearing truck struck a device near Tinzaouatene in the northeastern Adrar des Iforas region.
Date created : 2008-03-22