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UN peacekeeper death toll rises after Mali Islamist militant attack

AFP , Saturday 10 Jun 2017
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The death toll in an Islamist militant attack on UN peacekeepers in northern Mali has risen to four, the United Nations mission in the country said Saturday.

Three Guinean peacekeepers were killed Friday near their base in Kidal by a powerful group linked to Al-Qaeda, and the body of a missing soldier has now been found, the MINUSMA mission said in a statement.

"The toll of victims from the terrorist operation mounted against UN peacekeepers has risen to four dead and eight wounded. The wounded have been treated at the MINUSMA hospital in Kidal and their condition is stable," the statement said.

Claiming the attack was the Group to Support Islam and Muslims, also known as Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen in Arabic, a fusion of three Islamist militant groups with previous Qaeda links formed in March.

Led by the Malian Islamist militant Iyad Ag Ghaly, a former leader of the Ansar Dine Islamists, the group has claimed multiple attacks on domestic and foreign forces since its formation.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent condolences to the families and the Guinean government on Friday, describing such attacks as possible war crimes and calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

The attack is just the latest to target the 12,000-member UN force in the west African nation.

Guinean and Chadian soldiers make up the majority of troops stationed at the Kidal camp, where seven Guineans were killed in February 2016 by suicide bombers.

MINUSMA began its operations in 2013, providing security and assisting Malian troops struggling against militant attacks. It has been targeted constantly by Islamist militants, and dozens of peacekeepers have been killed.

Northern Mali fell to Islamist militant groups linked to Al-Qaeda in March 2012, including Ansar Dine, and although these forces were driven out of key towns by a French-led military intervention the following year, they have now spread further south.

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