Two United Nations peacekeepers were killed and 30 wounded Friday when suspected Islamists attacked their base at Kidal in restive northeastern Mali, UN sources said.
“Our camp at Kidal was attacked by terrorists early Friday morning. We fought back but two peacekeepers were killed and 30 others injured,” a source from the UN’s MINUSMA peacekeeping mission told AFP.
“The terrorists attacked with the help of rockets,” the source added. “We returned fire, but two blue helmets were killed and 30 others wounded.”
A Guinean member of the UN force told AFP the dead soldiers were from his country’s contingent, adding that seven of the wounded men were “in a serious condition”.
The jihadist raid coincided with a visit to the region by the new chief of MINUSMA, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, who began touring the north on Monday.
Annadif was in Kidal a week after a peace pact eased tensions in the town, where the arrival early in February of members of a pro-government group had upset the former rebels in the Coordination of Movements of the Azawad.
Azawad is the name the traditionally nomadic Tuareg people of the desert use for territory they regard as their homeland, straddling the southern Sahara and the Sahel.
Two Guinean soldiers were killed last November in a rocket attack on the MINUSMA base in Kidal, which was claimed by the jihadist group Ansar Dine.
The latest attack came a week after at least four suspected jihadists and a Malian soldier were killed in clashes at a UN camp for police officers from Nigeria in Timbuktu, in the northwest of the country.
That assault came just a day after the fabled city had celebrated the restoration of its greatest treasures — earthen mausoleums dating to mediaeval times that were destroyed during an Islamist takeover in 2012.
Responsibility for the raid on Timbuktu was claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
The sprawling north of the country continues to be beset by violence having fallen under the control of Tuareg-led rebels and jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in 2012.
The Islamists sidelined the Tuareg to take sole control and although they were largely ousted by a French-led military operation in January 2013 extremist groups still pose a threat.
Large swathes of Mali remain lawless, despite a June peace deal between the former Tuareg rebels and rival pro-government armed groups.