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Tue Jan 17, 2012, 02:26 PM

Tuareg rebels attack towns in north Mali

By MARTIN VOGL | Associated Press 2 hrs 50 mins ago

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) A new Tuareg rebel group, whose members include former pro-Gadhafi fighters, launched its first attack on Tuesday on at least one town in Mali. Government forces fought back, including with helicopters.

Many ethnic Tuareg fighters who had fought for Moammar Gadhafi returned home with their weapons to Mali after the Libyan strongman was killed in October. Some joined a rebel group called the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, or NMLA, which was formed that same month.

Most of the fighting was in Menaka, a town in eastern Mali, said Moussa Ag Acharatoumane, an NMLA leader who spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from Paris. The attack broke two years of relative peace in the area.

"Operations are continuing in Menaka and some other towns as well. Our aim is to liberate these towns," Ag Acharatoumane said. He said he was talking to fighters on the ground by satellite phone. Bakine Ag Bambalo, a trader in Menaka, said residents heard gunfire and explosions erupt in the morning.


Gaddafi had no mercenaries?

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