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Red Cross Team Visits Niger Rebel Camp to Treat Prisoners

International Red Cross workers have gone to a rebel camp in northern Niger to treat captured government soldiers.

Government and rebel officials say the team, from the International Committee of the Red Cross, will give aid to soldiers wounded last week when Tuareg rebels attacked an army outpost in the town of Tezirzayt.

The rebel group Niger Movement for Justice claimed responsibility for the attack. Both the rebels and the government say 15 soldiers were killed and 72 taken prisoner. Forty-three of the hostages were wounded.

The rebels say they were provoked by a speech by President Mamadou Tandja blaming recent unrest in the north on bandits.

The rebels have claimed responsibility for at least two other attacks in Niger this year, including one earlier this month on an airport in the town of Agadez.

Fighters from the Tuareg ethnic group have been seeking greater autonomy in Niger and neighboring Mali since 1990. The mostly nomadic Tuareg live throughout the Sahara Desert region in Algeria, Libya, Mali and Niger.

In 1995, Niger's government signed a peace deal with Tuareg rebels, but instability has continued.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.