Separatist rebels in northern Mali say they are holding 19 soldiers from the national army following recent fighting.

Moussa Ag Acharatoumane, a spokesman for the Coordination of Azawad Movements, a separatist coalition, said the soldiers were captured Friday following clashes between the army and rebels in the northern town of Tessit.

Col. Diarran Kone, an adviser with Mali's defense ministry, confirmed that some soldiers were in rebel custody but would not say how many.

Tuareg rebels took over Mali's north in 2012 before Islamic extremists hijacked the offensive, prompting a French-led military intervention in 2013.

Northern Mali remains insecure, with the latest round of violence dating back to April 27, when separatists say armed groups allied with the military took over the Tuareg-held town of Menaka.