A Mali official says that the government has released 30 separatist rebels in exchange for the release of 16 soldiers.

Garibou Perou, spokesman for the Ministry of the Reconstruction of the North, said Saturday that the 30 rebels were released last week.

Almouzamil Ag Mohamed, a spokesman for the main Tuareg separatist group, the Coordination of Azawad Movements, said the exchange helps restore confidence between the group and the government. Militias aligned with the government clashed with the separatist group in August and September breaking a peace accord signed by the parties in late June.

Meetings on the implementation of the peace accord continue in Bamako Saturday.

Separatists and al-Qaida-affiliated extremists took control of northern Mali following a military coup in 2012, prompting a French-led military intervention.