DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Mali's government has exchanged 30 separatist rebels for the release of 16 soldiers, the government and a rebel group said Saturday, a move that shows progress after violence in August threatened to disrupt a peace accord.
The soldiers and rebels were released last week, said Garibou Perou, spokesman for the Ministry of the Reconstruction of the North.
The exchange is an important step, said Almouzamil Ag Mohamed, a spokesman for the main Tuareg separatist group, the Coordination of Azawad Movements.
"The prisoners exchange helps to restore confidence between the two parties after fighting in the month of August in Kidal," said Ag Mohamed.
Militias aligned with the government clashed with the separatist group in August breaking a peace accord signed by the parties in late June.
Meetings on the implementation of the peace accord continued in Bamako on Saturday.
Mali's northern half fell to Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. A French-led military intervention drove them out of major towns, but north and central Mali remain insecure.