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20 Jan, 2019 17:48

8 peacekeepers killed in militant attack on UN base in Mali

8 peacekeepers killed in militant attack on UN base in Mali

At least eight UN peacekeepers have been killed and many injured in a “major” assault on one of their bases in the northeastern Mali, where various Al-Qaeda and Islamic State-linked groups have been active.

The incident occurred early on Sunday in the northeastern Kidal province near the village of Aguelhok. A group of militants attacked the base using “many armed vehicles,” a statement issued by the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, said. The attack was successfully repelled, it added.

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At least eight soldiers with the UN mission died in the clashes, the statement said, adding that “several others” were injured without specifying the exact number. A Malian security source told AFP that at least 19 servicemen were injured in the incident.

The identities of the affected soldiers were not officially revealed. However, some local media suggested that all those killed were from Chad. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far but Al Qaeda affiliates declared they made previous attacks. Two peacekeepers were killed in the assault on this base in April 2018.

The UN Secretary General’s Special Representative to Mali, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, condemned the attack and said it “demands a robust, immediate and concerted response from all forces,” adding that MINUSMA “will not let this barbarity go unpunished.”

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In recent years, Mali has been hit by conflict with both Islamist rebels and ethnic Tuareg separatists. A peace treaty was signed with the secular Tuareg groups in 2012, who subsequently joined forces with the government to fight Al-Qaeda-linked militants, who had been seizing territory and imposing Sharia law on the towns and villages in the north including the ancient city of Timbuktu.

France sent troops to Mali in 2013 and managed to successfully drive back most of the Islamist factions, but violence still plagues the country’s northern regions. One of the most devastating attacks that took place in 2017 saw 60 people killed and scores injured as five suicide car bombers detonated explosives at a military base in the northern Malian city of Gao.