BAMAKO: Weekend fighting between government soldiers and Tuareg rebels in the northern Malian city of Kidal has claimed at least 36 lives, while almost as many civil servants have been taken hostage, the government said on Sunday.
The fighting broke out on Saturday outside the regional governor's offices as Mali's Prime Minister Moussa Mara was visiting Kidal as part of his first tour of the country's restive northern desert.
"Eight members of the armed forces were killed and 25 were wounded while 28 of the attackers were killed," the defence ministry said in a statement, adding that around 30 civil servants were being held hostage.
Kidal, 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako, was the scene of anti-government protests by several hundred youths and women on Friday and Saturday who demonstrated at the regional airport.
Mara's predecessor Oumar Tatam Ly was forced to cancel a trip in November to Kidal, the stronghold of Mali's Tuareg separatist movement, after protesters occupied a runway at the airport. (AFP)