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Mali govt, rebels swap prisoners ahead of peace talks

A photo taken on January 28, 2013 shows French military helicopters, flying back from the city of Timbuktu, to the French army base camp airport in SevareTuareg rebels and the Malian government on Tuesday exchanged dozens of prisoners in a goodwill gesture on the eve of peace talks opening in Algiers. Forty-five Malian soldiers and police captured during clashes at the end of May in the west African nation’s restive northeast arrived at Bamako’s airport, where they were welcomed by Prime Minister Moussa Mara. They were replaced on the plane by 41 militants captured during patrols of the north by security forces, with the rebels due to be to returned to their homeland, known by the Tuareg as “Azawad”. “In total today the Malian government and armed groups in the north have released 86 prisoners on both sides, in the context of an easing of tension,” security ministry official Aliou Toure told AFP at the airport.

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