Mali defense minister says army killed 20 rebels in north

BAMAKO - Mali's defense ministry said on Saturday the armed forces had killed about 20 northern separatist rebels and taken another dozen more prisoner during two days of clashes in the Timbuktu region.
The MNLA rebels, who say they are fighting to create an independent north, had earlier confirmed clashes near the town of Niafunke, in Timbuktu region, but were not immediately available to comment on the armed forces' statement.
The government gave no further details on the clashes but a Malian military source and a local journalist said most of the rebels were killed when air force helicopters attacked rebel positions on Saturday.
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