A UN peacekeeper from China and three civilians assigned to UN missions have died in Gao, in northern Mali, in attacks attributed to Islamist militants. The UN mission currently has some 300 German troops in Gao.
Heavily armed al Qaeda militants attacked two separate UN sites in the West African country late on Tuesday, killing one Chinese peacekeeper and three civilians.
Attackers fired on the UN mission site in the city of Gao, killing the peacekeeper and injuring more than a dozen other people.
Soon thereafter, gunmen attacked a UN demining site in a different neighborhood of the city, killing the three civilian employees - an international demining expert and two Malian security guards.
The US monitoring firm SITE said responsibility was claimed by al-Qaeda's North African affiliate AQIM.
Ongoing violence from armed militants
China's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday confirmed the death of its peacekeeper, describing the attack in Gao as a "grave and outrageous crime."
The double attack followed a fatal attack Saturday on UN peacekeepers by armed militants in central Mali. Five people died after their convoy hit a landmine and then came under fire.
More than 70 UN peacekeepers have died in Mali since a militant Islamist insurgency, begun in 2012, was quashed by France, Mali's former colonial power.
The French intervention in early 2013 pushed back Tuareg-led rebels who had allied themselves with jihadi groups.
Although French forces seized control of key towns, militants have continued to stage strikes from desert hideouts.
German troops also in Gao
Over the past three years, Germany has contributed some 220 personnel to train Malian soldiers as part of the EUTM mission headed by the EU and based in the south of Mali.
Germany's Bundeswehr contribution focuses on information gathering. Since March, German soldiers have also been deployed in Gao, equipped with drones and armored vehicles.
blc, ipj/sms (Reuters, dpa, AFP)