The head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali is fiercely condemning the murders of six government officials and two civilians Sunday by separatists in the besieged city of Kidal.
Albert Koenders calls it a totally unacceptable barbaric crime, and said those responsible must pay. The exact circumstances of the killings are unclear.
It happened Sunday as Maliian Prime Minister Moussa Mara sent troops into Kidal to take back the city from Tuareg rebels who are holding 30 government workers hostage. Mara says the country is at war with the rebels.
Clashes between government forces and separatists have so far killed 36 people on both sides.
Mali has been in turmoil since last year when Tuareg separatists took advantage of an Islamist extremist coup last year to briefly seize control of the north.