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Mali Government Officials: Rebels Agree to Cease-Fire, Hostage Release


Government officials in Mali say Tuareg rebels have agreed to release hostages captured during recent fighting with the military in the country's northeast.

Officials Wednesday say mediators have persuaded fighters led by insurgent chief Ibrahim Bahanga to also agree to a temporary ceasefire.

The government says the most recent fighting began Sunday when rebels ambushed an army convoy sent to the Tinzaouatene region, near the Algerian border. Officials say seven Tuareg rebels and one soldier were killed during the battle, and one Tuareg rebel was captured.

Mali's government blames Bahanga's fighters for a series of attacks and kidnappings of soldiers in recent weeks.

Ethnic Tuaregs, light-skinned desert nomads, complain of being neglected by black-dominated governments in Mali and neighboring Niger.

Tuareg rebels have staged several uprisings in both countries since the early 1990s.

In a recent interview with VOA, a journalist based in Mali, Amadou Maiga, says Bahanga and his men are fighting without the support of other Tuaregs, who signed a peace deal with the government in July last year.

Bahanga rejected the agreement, saying it did not provide enough aid to minority Tuaregs.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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