The United Nations mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has said four peacekeepers were killed and several others wounded in an attack on its base in the northern town of Aguelhok.
Peacekeepers repelled the attack on the camp that was carried out by several “heavily armed terrorists”, MINUSMA said in a statement on Friday, adding that the attackers suffered heavy losses including several deaths.
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“A provisional toll shows four peacekeepers dead”, said the statement, adding that the wounded were evacuated via helicopter.
A MINUSMA source told AFP news agency the attack occurred some 200km (120 miles) from the Algerian border, targeting a contingent of peacekeepers from Chad.
The peacekeeping mission, established in 2013, has about 13,000 peacekeepers drawn from several countries operating at the centre of a multilayered and complicated conflict that has spread across the western portion of the Sahel, a semi-arid region directly south of the Sahara desert.
More than 190 peacekeepers have died in the country, including nearly 120 killed by hostile action – making Mali the UN’s “most dangerous” peacekeeping operation.
Mali has been plagued by a brutal conflict that began as a separatist movement in the north but devolved into a multitude of armed groups jockeying for control in the country’s central and northern regions.
The violence has spread into Burkina Faso and Niger, with fighters linked to ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda exploiting the poverty of marginalised communities and inflaming tensions between ethnic groups.
The “tri-border” region – the three-country point joining Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger – has seen the most intense fighting in a worsening conflict that has sparked a major humanitarian crisis.
Attacks grew fivefold between 2016 and 2020, with 4,000 people killed in the three countries last year, up from about 770 in 2016, according to the United Nations.
In February, French President Emmanuel Macron ruled out an immediate drawdown in France’s 5,100-strong Barkhane forces battling armed groups in the Sahel, describing a rushed exit as a mistake.
Last month, some 100 assailants on pick-up trucks and motorbikes launched an attack on a military post in the town of Tessit, near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso and Niger, killing at least 33 soldiers, according to the army.
Twenty attackers were killed in the attack, the army said.