Al-Qaeda affiliate, Ansar Dine, has attacked a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping base in northern Mali. The attack comes just over a week after Islamist militants killed 20 people at a hotel in the capital, Bamako.
The attackers fired automatic weapons and rockets at the UN base in Kidal early on Saturday morning, killing two peacekeepers from Guinea and a civilian contractor from Burkina Faso, the United Nations announced.
At least 20 people were also wounded, four seriously, the UN said.
The Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith) group, which is allied to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Macina Liberation Front, claimed responsibility for the attack shortly after.
Senior Ansar Dine member, Hamadou Ag Khallini, told AFP news agency that the attack was "in response to the violation of our lands by the enemies of Islam."
French troops and UN peacekeepers have been struggling to bring stability to Mali, where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and groups al Mourabitoun and Macina Liberation Front remain active in the north.
The groups claimed responsibility for a brazen attack eight days ago on a hotel in the capital Bamako, in which 20 people were killed. In August, four soldiers and five UN workers were killed in another attack by militants.
Getting to peace
In the spring of 2012, jihadis with links to the Qaeda terror network invaded northern Mali, taking advantage of a local rebellion by armed Tuareg separatists against the central government in Bamako in southern Mali.
Most were driven out of northern Mali by a French-led intervention force in January 2013, though they still control some territory in the far north.
Germany this week announced that it would contribute up to 650 troops to the French-led peacekeeping mission in order to free up French resources for the fight against the "Islamic State" following the Paris terror attacks.
The UN mission is supporting a nascent peace process in Mali signed between Tuareg rebels and the government earlier this year. If implemented, the agreement would grant greater autonomy to ethnic Tuaregs.
The United Nations reported that attacks such as Saturday's would not deter support for the peace process.
cw/jlw (AFP, Reuters)