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Peacekeepers killed in attack on UN northern Mali base

Seyllou, AFP | United Nations MUNISMA peacekeepers patrol the streets of Gao, eastern Mali on August 3, 2018.

Gunmen killed at least 10 Chadian UN peacekeepers and injured 25 others in an attack Sunday on a base in northern Mali, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres confirmed. An al Qaeda-linked group claimed responsibility for the attack.

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres confirmed information previously announced by a source close to the MINUSMA force. Guterres strongly condemned what he described as a "complex attack" on the UN peace mission's camp in Aguelhok, 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Kidal and towards the border with Algeria.

"Ten peacekeepers from Chad were killed and at least 25 injured," said a statement from UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"MINUSMA forces responded robustly and a number of assailants were killed," Dujarric said, without specifying the toll.

An al Qaeda-linked Islamist group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen group said the attack was a response to Chadian President Idriss Deby's revival of diplomatic relations with Israel in a statement posted on Telegram.

Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the UN envoy for Mali, condemned what he called a "vile and criminal" attack."Peacekeepers of the MINUSMA force at Aguelhok fought off a sophisticated attack by assailants who arrived on several armed vehicles," he said in a statement.

The attack "illustrates the determination of the terrorists to sow chaos".

An attack at the same base last April killed two peacekeepers and left several others wounded.

On Sunday, France's Defence Minister Florence Parly told French radio that the G5 Sahel anti-jihadist force in the region was resuming its operations.They were suspended after an attack on their headquarters in mid-2018. The G5 force comprises contingents from Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

Some 13,000 peacekeepers are deployed in Mali as part of a UN mission that was established after Islamist militias seized northern Mali in 2012. They were pushed backed by French troops in 2013.

A peace agreement signed in 2015 by the Bamako government and armed groups was aimed at restoring stability to Mali following a brief Islamist takeover in the north.

But the accord has failed to stop violence by Islamist militants, who have also staged attacks in Burkina Faso and Niger.

Earlier this month, both France and the United States criticised the authorities in Mali for their failure to stem the worsening violence.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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