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At least three civilians killed in Mali suicide attack against UN peacekeepers

A suicide bomber has attacked a UN barracks in northern Mali killing three civilians and wounding 16 people, including several peacekeepers. The head of the UN's Mali mission condemned the "cowardly and odious" attack.

The militant was attempting to drive into a camp used by the United Nation's MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) peacekeeping mission in Ansongo, in the northern region of Gao, when the explosives went off.

According to Mali army spokeman, Diarran Kone, the bomber was shot before he was able to enter the camp.

"I am shocked that valiant peacekeepers are again being targeted, as well as innocent civilians. This attack will not deter MINUSMA from its mission of restoring peace and security in Mali," Mongi Hamdi, head of the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission, was quoted as saying.

MINUSMA did not specify, however, whether the suicide bomber was acting alone or if there were others in the vehicle.

Confusion in conflict

Some 10,000 UN personel are currently stationed in Mali in an effort to stabilize the Sahel nation which was overrun by al Qaeda-linked Islamists in 2012.

Despite the militants being swiftly subdued by a French-led intervention a year later, small groups of have continued to launch attacks on UN, French and Malian forces, as well as civilians.

As the attacks continue, it remains difficult, however, to differentiate between the mostly Tuareg groups, who are engaged in a political negotiating process, and the jihadist groups not engaged in any political process or negotiation.

At the beginning of April, the Malian government and the Tuareg rebels

tentatively accepted a peace deal

, following months of talks in Algeria. It remains uncertain, however, whether the Tuareg rebels will sign the peace deal by the end of the month. Even if they accept the accord, it is unlikely to prevent further jihadist attacks.

ksb/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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