Suspected jihadists kill 3 at UN base in north Mali

Suspected jihadists kill 3 at UN base in north Mali

The United Nations said unknown attackers fired rockets at a U.N. peacekeeping base in Kidal in northern Mali on Saturday, killing three people inside, in the latest sign that the West African country’s Islamist insurgency is intensifying.

French troops and the 10,000-strong U.N. force are struggling to stabilise the former French colony where Islamist militants attacked a hotel in the capital on Nov. 20 and killed 20 people, in their bloodiest attack yet in the country’s south.

Desert-based jihadists regularly launch rockets and missiles at northern U.N. bases, especially around full moon when the lighter nights make it easier to target the camps, although it is rare for the missiles to land inside the camp.

Saturday’s attack left three dead and four injured a U.N. spokesman said.

He did not name the victims’ nationalities although a U.N. source said two were peacekeepers from neighbouring Guinea.

A witness gave his account: “Early this morning we were sleeping when there was a ‘boom boom’ on the people at MINUSMA. We heard two Guineans were dead and others injured. We really don’t like this. We just want peace back in this town and for everyone to work calmly, that’s what we want,” motorbike mechanic Fayssal Maiga said.

A security source in north Mali who wished to remain anonymous said the Kidal camp had received a warning two days before the attack from an unnamed jihadist group. A local deputy for Kidal Ahmoudene Ag Ikmasse also blamed radical Islamists.

Northern Mali was taken over by Islamist fighters, some with links to al Qaeda, for most of 2012. They were driven out by a French-led military operation a year later, but violence has continued and spread into formerly safe areas in the south.

Three Islamist militant groups – al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI), its splinter group al Mourabitoun and Massina Liberation Front (MLF) – claimed last week’s attack on the Radisson Blu hotel that killed Russian and Chinese nationals as well as an American, among others.

Security analysts say the groups could be collaborating.

Some analysts say the spike in jihadist attacks is designed to disrupt the implementation of a peace deal signed between various northern armed groups and Mali’s government in June.

Germany has said it is willing to send up to 650 soldiers to bolster the U.N. force which has yet to reach its full strength of 12,680 men.

Other West African states are also battling Islamist militants. Boko Haram, the leading such group in the region, has this year extended its attacks from Nigeria to neighbouring states of Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

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