At least one United Nations peacekeeper was killed and four others seriously injured when their patrol was attacked in northern Mali on Friday, the peacekeeping mission MINUSMA said.
The incident took place near the town of Ber, in the region of Timbouctou – an area that has become a hotbed of violent activity over the past decade.
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MINUSMA – the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali – said on Twitter that the patrol first encountered an improvised explosive device and was then hit with a direct fire attack.
It did not name perpetrators but said it was a “complex attack” and that updates on casualties would follow.
Armed groups, some linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS), have been war in northern Mali since they arrogated a Tuareg rebellion in 2012.
The violence has spread across the Sahel region under the Sahara and beyond despite international military interventions to help local troops fight back.
Thousands have been killed and more than six million displaced by the fighting, according to the UN.
MINUSMA currently has about 12,000 military personnel deployed in the country.
More than 300 of the peacekeepers have also been killed since the start of the mission in 2013, making it the deadliest UN peacekeeping mission in the world.
Malians initially celebrated the arrival of the UN peacekeeping force, but now say UN soldiers are the problem and not the solution. They have blamed it for failing to protect the population and not intervening when massacres were carried out near UN compounds.
Outside the capital, in the northern and central parts of the country where government presence is sparse, millions of Malians are still dependent on the UN mission for security.
But in recent months, there have been repeated instances of friction between the Malian military government and the mission, partly because Mali’s military has sought help from the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group, a private Russian mercenary firm.