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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 16 February 2019

Ten UN peacekeepers killed in attack in northern Mali

Militants said the attack was in response to Chad resuming ties with Israel

A 2015 peace deal signed by Mali’s government and separatist groups failed to end violence in the West African country. EPA
A 2015 peace deal signed by Mali’s government and separatist groups failed to end violence in the West African country. EPA

Gunmen killed 10 Chadian peacekeepers and wounded at least 25 more in an attack on a UN camp in northern Mali on Sunday.

An Al Qaeda-linked group called Jamat Nusrat Al Islam wal Muslimeen claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in response to Chadian President Idriss Deby's resumption of diplomatic relations with Israel.

French forces and UN peacekeepers are stationed in northern Mali to fight well-armed militant groups that roam across Africa's barren sub-Sahara region.

The gunmen attacked the base near Aguelhok in the Kidal region near the Algerian border early on Sunday, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali said.

"Minusma [The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali] forces responded robustly and a number of assailants were killed," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned what he described as a "complex attack" and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

An attack at the same base last April killed two peacekeepers and left several others wounded.

In October 2014, nine troops from a Nigerian peacekeeping contingent were killed in the north-east.

French forces intervened in Mali in 2013 to drive back fighters who had hijacked a Tuareg uprising a year earlier. About 4,000 French troops remain in the country.

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About 13,000 peacekeepers are in Mali and have been the target of a concerted guerrilla campaign.

A 2015 peace deal signed by Mali’s government and separatist groups failed to end the violence. Extremists have attacked high-profile targets in the capital, Bamako, and in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.

On Sunday, France's Defence Minister Florence Parly said the G5 sub-Saharan counter-terrorist force in the region was resuming its operations.

These were suspended after an attack on its headquarters in mid-2018. The G5 force has contingents from Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

This month, France and the US criticised the authorities in Mali for their failure to stop the worsening violence.

On January 16, France threatened to push for more sanctions on Mali after hearing a UN official report on worsening violence in the West African country.

Washington renewed its warning that it would lobby for changes to the peacekeeping mission in Mali, possibly a major reduction, if there was no progress.

In August, a panel of experts told the UN Security Council that inter-communal conflicts in the region were exacerbating existing tensions from clashes between extremist groups and international and Malian forces.

Updated: January 21, 2019 10:27 AM

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