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Malian soldiers clashed with Tuareg separatists from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad Wednesday in a town south of the rebel-held regional capital of Kidal, military sources told AFP.
"Our troops have engaged armed bandits in the Anefis area who have suffered heavy losses of men and vehicles," said Malian army spokesman Souleymane Maiga.
The clashes were confirmed by the MNLA and a regional military source who said the Malian army hit rebel positions in the area at 8:00 am (0800 GMT).
"The Malian army has attacked our positions this morning in Anefis. It decided this morning to resolve the situation through war and the Malian government will bear the consequences," MNLA vice-president Mahamadou Djeri Maiga told AFP.
"We never wanted to resolve the situation by war, but as this is so, we will defend ourselves until the end," he added, speaking from the Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou, where he is in talks with Malian officials over the staging of Mali's upcoming elections.