Heavy fighting broke out Wednesday between the Malian army and the Tuareg separatist group MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) near the northern town of Anefis, which is 100 kilometers from the MNLA stronghold of Kidal.
The clashes mark the first fighting between the two sides in more than a year and could derail attempts to find a negotiated solution to the crisis ahead of nationwide elections July 28.
A military spokesman in the capital, Bamako, said the army has seized Anefis and is preparing for an assault on Kidal, 100 kilometers to the north.
Ten rebels were killed in the fighting and 28 were taken as prisoners, according to Army Commander Colonel Didier Dacko.
MNLA spokesman Moussa ag Attaher said the rebels are regrouping outside Anefis and preparing a counterattack.