3 UN peacekeepers killed during attack in northeast Mali

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Three United Nations peacekeepers and one Malian soldier have been killed after they came under attack during a joint operation in northeastern Mali, the UN mission said on Friday. Several others have been critically injured.

The incident happened on Friday morning when a force from the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was conducting an operation with local security forces in the Menaka region near Mali’s border with Niger .

During the operation, unidentified assailants launched an attack, killing 3 UN peacekeepers and injuring several others, some of whom were reported to be in a critical condition. One Malian soldier was also killed and a second soldier was injured, MINUSMA said.

The nationalities of the fallen peacekeepers were not immediately disclosed by the UN mission. There was also no word on what type of operation the UN and Malian forces were conducting at the time of the deadly attack.

Several of the assailants were killed when UN peacekeepers and Malian soldiers responded to the attack. “Air reinforcements were immediately deployed to strengthen the security of the perimeter and to allow medical evacuations,” the UN force said in a statement.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s attack, but jihadists are known to use the porous borders between Mali and neighboring Niger.

“I condemn in the strongest terms this attack that has once again befallen the MINUSMA force as well as the [Malian army],” UN mission head Mahamat Saleh Annadif said in a statement. “I offer my condolences to the families of the victims and wish those wounded a speedy recovery.”

Fighting in northern Mali began in January 2012 as al-Qaeda-linked fighters sought to gain independence and autonomy in the region. President Amadou Toumani Toure was ousted in a coup d’etat in March 2012 for failing to handle the crisis, and by April 2012, much of the region was under the control of rebel forces.

Responding to requests from the Malian government, French and African forces were deployed in an effort to prevent rebels from advancing south and reaching the country’s capital. The forces succeeded, capturing key cities and towns from militants before handing over security responsibilities to MINUSMA in July 2013. The mission of MINUSMA is to help local authorities move towards the full restoration of constitutional order, democratic governance and national unity.

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