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UN Peacekeeper Among Three Killed in Rocket Attack on Base in Northern Mali

Unknown attackers showered a UN base with 30 shells Sunday in the latest attack against foreign forces stationed in the West African nation.

by Liz Fields
Mar 8 2015, 5:35pm

Photo by Arnaud Roine/AP

Unknown attackers fired dozens of rockets at an United Nations base in the northeastern Mali town of Kidal early Sunday, killing three people. 

More than 30 rockets and shells pelted the base at around 5:40am local time, Olivier Salgado, the spokesman of the UN's Mali peacekeeping force, MINUSMA, said in a statement. One UN peacekeeper and two others were among the casualties, and at least 14 people were also wounded in the attack, the Associated Press reported.

"MINUSMA is outraged at the cowardice of attackers who also targeted innocent civilians," the statement read.

The rockets were launched from around a mile away from the UN base at Kidal. The town is a stronghold for Tuareg separatists who have been battling Islamist extremists for power in the north since the Tuareg rebels moved to fill the power vacuum left after a military coup in 2012.  

A witness told Reuters that two people died and several small children were injured when at least one rocket hit a camp housing Tuareg and Arab nomads. The UN peacekeeper killed was reportedly Chadian, security sources said.

UN forces at the Kidal camp returned fire at around 6am, the organization said.

Related: Togo Poised to Become the Next West African Regime Toppled by Violent Protests

The incident is the third round of violence to take place in the West African nation this weekend, indicating the ongoing security woes faced by the francophone country since France launched a military intervention in 2013 to oust al-Qaeda-linked militants who had toppled the Tuareg takeover and captured control of a vast portion of northern Mali equivalent to the size of France.

The UN has been promoting peace talks between Mali's government and the armed rebel factions in the north, but the situation remains precarious as insurgents continue to launch deadly attacks on French, African and other foreign forces.  The attacks appear to now be spreading southward.

On Saturday, the Sahara-based group al-Mourabitoun claimed responsibility for a shooting at a nightclub frequented by expatriates in Mali's capital city, Bamako, in the south. Five people were killed, including French and Belgian citizens, and eight wounded, authorities said.

Al-Mourabitoun, which has previously claimed responsibility for attacks on UN peacekeeping forces, said the latest violence was conducted in response to the killing of one of its leaders.

In another incident Saturday in the central town of Gao, a mob lynched two men suspected of attempting to blow up a police post with grenades, witnesses told Reuters.

The attacks come just a week after Mali's government signed a preliminary peace deal with Tuareg separatists. The main rebel alliance, which seeks regional autonomy, has requested more time to consult their groups before agreeing to the UN-brokered accord.

Related: Police unleash tear gas and batons on protesters in Burkina Faso. Read more here.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields