A suicide bomber attacked a UN barracks in northern Mali on Wednesday, the United Nations said, killing three civilians and wounding 16 people, including several peacekeepers.
The militant was attempting to drive into a camp used by the UN's MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Ansongo, in the northern region of Gao, when the explosives went off.
"The attack left nine injured, two seriously, among the peacekeepers from the Niger contingent. In addition, the explosion has killed at least three civilians. Seven (civilians) were also injured," MINUSMA said in a statement.
The mission did not specify if the bomber was acting alone or if there were others in the vehicle but its head, Mongi Hamdi, condemned the "cowardly and odious" attack.
"I am shocked that valiant peacekeepers are again being targeted, as well as innocent civilians," he was quoted as saying.
"This attack will not deter MINUSMA from its mission of restoring peace and security in Mali."
Divided into rival armed factions, plagued by drug trafficking and infiltrated by jihadist groups, Mali's desert north has struggled for stability since the west African nation gained independence in 1960.
The attack comes at a sensitive time as the United Nations is seeking to seal a peace deal for northern Mali and stem a wave of attacks that have targeted MINUSMA.
The country descended into chaos in 2012 when an insurgency by Tuareg rebels led to a coup in the capital Bamako.
Militants linked to Al-Qaeda then overpowered the Tuareg to seize control of Mali's northern desert.
A French-led military operation launched in January 2013 drove the extremists into the bush but the Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants remain active throughout the northeast of the country.
The Islamists have staged attacks on UN forces, with at least 35 peacekeepers killed since MINUSMA was deployed in July 2013 -- one of the highest tolls for a UN peace mission -- and more than 140 wounded.
The camp targeted on Wednesday is situated near the scene of the killing of a Red Cross worker, claimed by the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), two weeks ago.
Last month a Chadian peacekeeper and two children died when militants fired more than 30 rockets at a UN barracks in the northern city of Kidal.
The attack on the UN base in Kidal came a day after heavily-armed Islamists attacked a Bamako nightclub, killing five people, including a French national and a Belgian.
Meanwhile Mali's main Tuareg rebel alliance, known as the Coordination for the Movements of Azawad (CMA), has refused to sign a peace deal agreed by other armed groups and the government.