2 peacekeepers killed in N. Mali suicide attack

Oct 23, 2013, 6:15 PM EDT
REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Assailants killed two Chadian peacekeepers and injured nine other soldiers and civilians in a suicide attack on a checkpoint in northern Mali, the United Nations said.

The attack was the latest in a recent spate of violence that has underscored the challenge of restoring security in a region that fell under rebel control last year.

The attack occurred at around 10 a.m. in the town of Tessalit, located in northern Mali's Kidal province, said Olivier Salgado, a spokesman for the U.N.'s peacekeeping mission in Mali. Six of the wounded were peacekeepers, four of whom were "seriously injured," Salgado said, adding that the casualty totals he provided were provisional. The other three people injured in the attack were civilians, including one child, he said.

Aicha Belco Maiga, president of the government body representing the area of Tessalit, said she had heard from witnesses that there were three civilian deaths, though she was unable to confirm the news from her home in the southern capital of Bamako. She said one of the dead was a child, though she could not provide details.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The attack drew swift condemnation from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. Security Council.

Ban said it "will not affect the determination of the United Nations to support the restoration of security, stability and lasting peace in Mali," his spokesman said in a statement.

The Security Council reiterated its support for the U.N. peacekeeping mission and the French forces who support it.

Council members called on the government of Mali "to swiftly investigate the attack and bring the perpetrators to justice."

Northern Mali fell to various rebel groups including Islamic extremists following a March 2012 coup. A French-led military intervention launched in January drove the rebels out of major towns, but top U.N. envoy Albert Koenders warned earlier this month that attacks dating back to September were a "wake up call" to lingering security challenges in the north.