One U.N. peacekeeper killed, four wounded in north Mali mine attack

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UN peacekeepers patrol in the northern town of Kouroume, Mali May 13, 2015. Kourome is 18 km (11 miles) south of Timbuktu. REUTERS/Adama Diarra
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BAMAKO (Reuters) – A United Nations peacekeeper was killed and four others wounded on Sunday when their vehicle hit a mine in Mali’s restive north, the U.N. mission (MINUSMA) said.

The attack on the vehicle, which was escorting a logistical convoy, occurred about 11 km (7 miles) south of Aguelhoc in the region of Kidal, where several Islamist militant groups groups are active, the mission said in a statement.

All five peacekeepers were from Chad, a mission spokesman said.

About two hours later, another mine exploded near a U.N. peacekeeping vehicle two km east of the mission base in Kidal but only caused material damage, the MINUSMA statement added.

MINUSMA did not say who was responsible for the attacks.

In a statement on Sunday, Islamist militant group Ansar Dine claimed responsibility for a mine attack on Friday near Kidal targeting Chadian troops, according to SITE Intelligence Group.

That explosion injured one peacekeeper, the spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on Sunday.

Mali’s government has not had a military presence in Kidal since clashes between the army and Tuareg rebels killed 50 soldiers there in 2014, leaving a heavy security burden on U.N. troops.

Mali has become the deadliest place to serve for U.N. peacekeepers. The United Nations says more than 100 peacekeepers have been killed since MINUSMA deployed in July 2013. The U.N. Security Council voted in June to increase the contingent by 2,500 troops, taking the total number of uniformed personnel to more than 15,000.

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In May, five Chadian peacekeepers were killed in an ambush near Kidal. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) also claimed responsibility for an attack that month that killed a Chinese peacekeeper and three civilians.

Islamist militant groups, some with links to al Qaeda, hijacked a Tuareg uprising in 2012 and seized northern Mali until a French-led intervention drove them back a year later.

But the region has remained plagued by violence despite a peace accord signed last year between Tuareg fighters and the government. Two days of fighting last month between Tuareg rebels and pro-government militia killed up to 20 people.

(Reporting by Adama Diarra; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Gareth Jones)


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