Attacks by the Mouvement national pour la libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) have been not only fierce but well planned. The late January assault on Ménaka, in the far south-east near Niger, was followed by operations against Tessalit and Aguelhok, 500-600 kilometres to the north, near the Algerian border. The aim was clearly to divide government forces and cause confusion. Then, the rebels attacked Léré, over 700 km. to the south-west, near the Mauritanian border, and Niafounké, near Timbuktu. After the Léré attack, some 1,000 civilians fled into Mauritania. The army has deployed five helicopter gunships to try to push back forces threatening Kidal, capital of the Malian Sahara.
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