Gunfire and explosions tore through a UN peacekeeping camp in the northern Malian city of Kidal on Friday, killing at least two people, according to UN sources in the West African nation.
Smoke could be seen rising from the camp of the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and witnesses said gunfire and the sounds of mortar shelling could be heard from a distance.
At least two peacekeepers from the UN mission were killed and 30 others wounded in the attack by suspected jihadists on the camp, UN sources told AFP.
“Our camp in Kidal was attacked on Friday early morning by terrorists. We returned fire but two peacekeepers were killed and 30 others wounded,” a MINUSMA security source told AFP. Confirming the news, a Guinean soldier from the UN mission told AFP that the peacekeepers killed belonged to his unit.
A spokesman for the Tuareg separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) confirmed the attack in an interview with Reuters.
“There is gunfire and mortar fire against the MINUSMA camp. It is an attack by the Islamists, apparently involving a suicide car bomb. There are some dead and wounded but I do not know the exact number,” said CMA spokesman Radouane Ag Mohamed Aly.
The attack on MINUSMA came a day after a customs officer and two civilians were killed in an assault in the northern Malian town of Homboli.
Jihadist groups remain active in northern Mali, three years after a French military operation retook the sandy, under-populated region from jihadist control. The region, the size of France, first fell to Tuareg separatists and jihadist fighters linked to al Qaeda in 2012. But a mix of Islamist groups subsequently sidelined the Tuaregs to wrest full control of the north.
Violence has been increasing in West Africa over the past few months. A November 2015 attack on a luxury hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako left 20 people dead. Last month a similar attack was launched on a hotel in Ouagadougou, the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso, killing 30. Both attacks were claimed by al Qaeda’s North Africa branch, known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)