Mali was in crisis last Friday after losing two northern towns including the rebel bastion of Kidal to Tuareg separatists, in a humiliating defeat that forced the government to call for an "immediate ceasefire".
Around 20 Malian soldiers were killed and 30 wounded in fighting Thursday that saw insurgents led by Tuareg rebels recapture the key northern town of Kidal, the defence minister said.
"There were dead and wounded on both sides", Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga told public television. "We counted around 30 wounded... and sadly around 20 dead."
A leader of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), said 40 Malian soldiers had been killed and 70 taken prisoner since hostilities began on Saturday, with dozens of vehicles seized along with several tonnes of weapons and ammunition.
And in the latest military setback for the beleaguered military, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said MNLA fighers had taken Menaka, a town of 20,000 i