“Pro-autonomy Tuareg rebels in Mali said on Tuesday they had occupied the town of Menaka, extending their control of the remote northeast as they position for talks with the government after the retreat of al Qaeda-linked insurgents.
It was not possible to independently verify whether MNLA fighters had entered Menaka. … Menaka was a cradle of the MNLA’s separatist uprising last year that took over northern Mali but was subsequently hijacked by al Qaeda and its allies.
Malian military officials have accused the MNLA of seeking to exaggerate its presence in the north to strengthen its hand in possible talks. …
Ag Assaleh said the MNLA entered Menaka because there were rebels from al Qaeda’s north African wing AQIM, as well as its splinter group MUJWA and Ansar Dine, operating nearby after being driven from the region’s main towns, Timbuktu and Gao.