Calm, but not quite in the clear

Citizens report that calm has again returned to Gao.  There are about 1000 troops in the town now – French, Malian and Nigerian soldiers – with more scheduled to arrive to keep the town secure.  In the initial bombings, some rebels were killed, but most escaped before the French arrived.  The rebels who fled Gao, instead of fleeing into the open Sahara where planes could easily spot them (in order to regroup in the Tidmane and Tigharghar mountains in the Kidal region where some rebel forces are hiding), the rebels are hiding out in villages in the region of Gao – such as in Djebok, 45km from Gao.  The villagers do not support the rebels, but are scared and at the whim of the heavily armed retreating rebel forces.  The military is aware of the situation, but a plan for riding the rebels from the villages has not been implimented yet.  If the French leave without taking care of this situation, however, the rebels could easily return to confront the less capable Malian army.

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