Ménaka Cercle is an administrative subdivision of the Gao Region of Mali. Its administrative center is the town of Ménaka. Ménaka Cercle's population as of 2009 was 56,104 people. Ménaka Cercle is a rural, isolated, and largely desert area, crisscrossed by seasonal wadis, part of an ancient dry river system of the Azawagh region (the Iullemmeden Basin). The area includes the rocky outcrops of the Ader Douchi hills. Most of the small population are nomadic are Tuaregtribal populations, as well as nomadicminorities, including the WodaabeFula and sedentary Songhai people. The area is a traditional center of the Kel Dinnik Tuareg confederation, with the town of Andéramboukane, near the Nigerien border, being one historic center for transhumance communities. During the 2012 Tuareg rebellion, it was part of Azawad, the northern part of Mali that was separated and declared independent by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). In the course of the conflict, the MNLA lost their control of the territory to Islamist militias. On March 6, 2013, the Islamists lost control of the village of Tin Keraten, a village directly next to the Gao Cercle, and near the border of the Ansongo Cercle, to French and Malian troops in the Battle of Tin Keraten, becoming the first village in the Ménaka Cercle to come under allied control during the war.
On 22 January, four foreign tourists were reported kidnapped in Ménaka Cercle, while traveling by auto from a festival at Anderamboukané on the main road to Ménaka, and on to Gao. One Briton, one German, and two Swiss citizens were reportedly kidnapped. One of their vehicles escaped the attack, and one which was seized was later found abandoned across the border near Bani-Bangou, Niger. The German and one of the Swiss citizens were released in April 2009. The Briton was killed in May 2009. The other Swiss citizen was released in July 2009.
On 25 November, a Frenchman called Pierre Camatte was taken hostage from a hotel in Ménaka city. A January 2010 statement issued by the north African branch of al-Qaeda, sets an ultimatum of 20 days for the exchange of four of al-Qaeda members by Pierre Camatte, after which, it says, the French and Malian governments "will be fully responsible for the French hostage's life". Camatte was released in exchange for the four prisoners in February 2010.