An unknown number of terrorists launched a mortar attack on a United Nations base in northern Mali early Saturday, killing three people and injuring 20, according to the country’s U.N. mission. No terror organization has claimed responsibility. Attackers fired rockets at the base in Kidal around 4 a.m. local time, the head of the U.N.’s Mali division, Mongi Hamdi, said in a statement. Two peacekeepers and a contractor were killed.
Eight days ago, gunmen attacked a hotel in the capital, Bamako, taking scores hostage. Nineteen people were killed. The peacekeeping mission in Mali was approved in 2014 after France led a military campaign to drive out Islamist militants from the north. The Minusma force comprises some 10,000 soldiers from dozens of different contributor countries – the majority from Mali’s west African neighbors. The UN mission – criticized by some at the time of its approval because there is no peace deal to support – has suffered more casualties than any other in recent years, with 56 troops killed. Islamist militants are suspected of being behind Saturday’s attack, in which 14 people were injured, several seriously, reports suggest.
Desert-based jihadists regularly launch rockets and missiles at northern U.N. bases, especially around full moon when the lighter nights make it easier to target the camps, although it is rare for the missiles to land inside the camp. A security source in north Mali who wished to remain anonymous said the Kidal camp had received a warning two days before the attack from an unnamed jihadist group. A local deputy for Kidal Ahmoudene Ag Ikmasse also blamed radical Islamists. Three Islamist militant groups – al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI), its splinter group al Mourabitoun and Massina Liberation Front (MLF) – claimed last week’s attack on the Radisson Blu hotel that killed Russian and Chinese nationals as well as an American, among others.
Some analysts say the spike in jihadist attacks is designed to disrupt the implementation of a peace deal signed between various northern armed groups and Mali’s government in June. Mongi Hamdi, the head of the U.N. mission, condemned the attacks and offered condolences to the families of those killed. Mongi Hamdi, the head of the U.N. mission, condemned the attacks and offered condolences to the families of those killed.
I want to reiterate that these attacks will not impede the determination of the United Nations to support the Malian people and the peace process, including through assisting the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali.”
Mali has been wracked by violence in recent years, including an Islamist insurgency that prompted French forces to intervene in the country in 2013. That year, the United Nations established its peacekeeping mission in Mali. A separatist Tuareg rebellion, meanwhile, has raged in the north. Groups have been working on an Algerian-brokered peace deal, signed by a group representing Tuareg-led rebels, that allows for greater autonomy in the north.