Mali has sent troops on Monday to retake the rebel stronghold of Kidal after Tuareg separatists seized local government offices, taking hostages and engaging the army in a firefight in which dozens were killed.

The government says Mali is now at war with what it calls terrorists.

Eight soldiers and 28 fighters died in fighting on Saturday outside the regional governor's offices while around 30 civil servants were being held hostage by the militants, the government said.

Mali's Prime Minister, Moussa Mara has criticised both the French and UN-forces in the country for allowing the attack to take place on Saturday. The attack ended a fragile truce brokered by France and the UN between Mali and the Tuareg rebels, bringing the country to the brink of a civil war.

The former French colony was thrown into turmoil in 2012 when al-Qaeda-linked fighters took advantage of a Tuareg-led rebellion and seized control of the north. The fighters were then driven back in a French-led military operation last year.

Al Jazeera's Mohammed Vall reports.

Source: Al Jazeera