Five United Nations peacekeepers were killed and one other seriously injured in an ambush in central Mali on Sunday, the United Nations said.
A convoy of soldiers in the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was attacked 19 miles west of Sevaré, the UN said. The UN did not yet confirm the nationality of the dead soldiers.
MINUSMA head Mahamat Saleh Annadif described the attacks as a "heinous act of terrorism." "I condemn in the strongest terms this despicable crime," Annadif said, adding that it constituted "crimes against humanity under international law."
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which come just ten days after a UN peacekeeping convoy in northern Mali was ambushed by militants, killing five peacekeepers and injuring many others.
Ansar Dine, a militant group based in northern Mali, claimed responsibility for last week's attack in a statement. The group is led by Iyad Ag Ghaly, one of the most notorious and prominent rebel leaders of the 1990-1995 Tuareg Rebellion.
The Mali peacekeeping mission is an increasingly dangerous one. Northern Mali has long been a flashpoint for violence between rebel groups. The latest round of violence began in 2012, when Tuareg insurgent groups staged attacks against Malian government forces, driving them from the northern region of Azawad, and the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) unilaterally declared independence. Initial cooperation between the MNLA and the hardline Islamist Ansar Dine began to wither away, and the region has been mired in violence ever since. Some rebel groups and the Malian government signed a peace accord in June 2015, but that agreement seems to be increasingly fragile, and attacks against the UN mission, Malian military, and civilians are still frequent.
The MINUSMA has been stationed in northern Mali since June 2013 and now has more than 11,700 peacekeepers there. Since the start of 2016, gunmen have reportedly attacked MINUSMA in the Kidal region over a dozen times, killing 12 soldiers.
According to UN figures, at least 64 MINUSMA peacekeepers have been killed on active service since the beginning of the mission, and another four have died in friendly fire incidents. Militants have staged a series of high profile attacks in the past year, mainly in the north of the country, but also in neighboring Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. Two days ago five Malian soldiers were killed near the town of Gao.