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Mali Government, Rebels Exchange Prisoners

Malian officials say the government and Tuareg rebels have exchanged prisoners in a show of commitment to their peace negotiations.

Officials said Wednesday that the rebels released 44 hostages in an exchange brokered by a Libyan mediator.

The government said it too has released all of its Tuareg rebel prisoners.

The two sides agreed to the prisoner exchange in July during peace talks in Algeria.

Following those talks, the rebels handed over 26 government soldiers in a gesture of good faith. It is unclear how many soldiers the rebels have captured during their insurgency.

The Tuareg rebels also have agreed to give up their claim for regional autonomy if the government fulfills its promises to speed up development in northern Mali.

The nomadic Tuaregs have staged periodic revolts in both Mali and neighboring Niger. In both countries, the light-skinned Tuaregs complain that black-dominated governments neglect their communities.

The Tuaregs say they also are fighting for a better allocation of resources and for a smaller military presence where they live.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.