2 UN drivers killed as convoy attacked in northern Mali

Agence France-Presse

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2 UN drivers killed as convoy attacked in northern Mali
(UPDATED) The killings come amid continued violent activity by jihadist groups that had previously taken control of northern Mali

BAMAKO, Mali (UPDATED) – Two drivers were shot dead in an attack on a peacekeeping supply convoy in northern Mali, authorities said on Saturday, April 18, the second deadly assault on the United Nations in 3 days.

The assailants stopped the convoy some 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the main city of Gao and “coldly killed two of the drivers” in the attack on Friday, the UN Mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, said in a statement.

A third person was wounded, said MINUSMA, adding that it “firmly condemns this latest attack targeting innocent civilians and will make every effort to catch those responsible and bring them to justice”.

The killings come amid continued violence by jihadist groups that had previously taken control of northern Mali before being routed by a French-led international intervention that began in 2013.

A suicide bomber struck a UN barracks in northern Mali’s Ansongo on Wednesday, killing two civilians and wounding 9 peacekeepers from Niger in an attack later claimed by an Al-Qaeda-linked group.

Earlier this month, a civilian was killed in Gao by a rocket attack by presumed jihadists the day after two people were killed by gunmen in another strike.

Jihadists have also hit farther south, including in Mali’s capital Bamako.

The Al-Qaeda-linked group of notorious one-eyed Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar claimed responsibility Friday in a recording for Wednesday’s deadly attack on the UN camp.

The group said the bomber targeted Niger nationals because their president, Mahamadou Issoufou, took part in the mass Paris rally over the jihadist attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in January.

The attack was also an act of revenge for Niger allowing American and French troops on its soil, the three-and-a-half-minute recording in Arabic, which was accompanied by the image of Belmokhtar, said.

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.

At least 35 peacekeepers have been killed since MINUSMA was deployed in July 2013 – one of the highest tolls for a UN peace mission – and more than 140 wounded. – Rappler.com

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