3 UN peacekeepers, Malian soldier killed in jihadist attack
United Nations peacekeepers from Burkina Faso walk through a neighborhood on the outskirts of Timbuktu, Mali, during a patrol, Tuesday, July 23, 2013. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo)
The Associated Press
Published Friday, November 24, 2017 3:13PM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 24, 2017 5:15PM EST
BAMAKO, Mali -- Suspected jihadists attacked UN peacekeepers carrying out an operation with Malian defence forces Friday killing at least three peacekeepers from Niger and one Malian soldier, and injuring 14 soldiers and one civilian, UN authorities and the Security Council said.
The UN mission reported that at least three assailants were killed by return fire from the peacekeepers.
The mission in Mali and UN officials in New York said the assailants attacked the peacekeepers' position in Indelimane, about 70 kilometres (43 miles) west of Menaka near the border with Niger, early Friday morning.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though the Islamic State in the Sahel group is active in the region. The extremist group is believed to be behind an ambush of U.S. forces and their local counterparts in Niger that left four Americans dead last month.
Following the attack, the UN said the Mali mission deployed three helicopters to evacuate the 14 injured peacekeepers, 13 from Niger and one from Cambodia as well as a UN civilian contractor.
The UN mission's aircraft with medical teams also deployed from Kidal and Bamako to evacuate some of the wounded, the UN said.
The mission in Mali dispatched a quick reaction force supported by attack helicopters to Indelimane to reinforce the peacekeepers on the ground, the UN said.
A 2012 uprising prompted mutinous soldiers to overthrow Mali's president of a decade. The power vacuum that was created ultimately led to an Islamic insurgency and a French-led war that ousted the jihadists from power in 2013. But insurgents remain active in the region.
The UN Security Council condemned the attack in the strongest terms and called on Mali's government to swiftly investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice. Council members underlined that attacks targeting peacekeepers may constitute war crimes, and any involvement could lead to UN sanctions.
The council expressed concern at the security situation in Mali and the broader Sahel region and urged Malian parties to fully implement a 2015 peace agreement "without further delay."
Members said actions by the 5,000-strong force being formed by five Sahel nations -- Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad -- to fight terrorist and criminal groups will contribute to "a more secure environment" in the region.
The more than 11,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in Mali has become the most dangerous in the world for soldiers as Islamic militants routinely attack UN peacekeepers and convoys across the north.
As of October, there had been 146 fatalities since the mission was established in 2013, according to UN peacekeeping data.