January 17, 2015 / 9:44 AM / 3 years ago

Chadian peacekeeper killed in attack on U.N. base in northern Mali

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Suspected Islamist militants attacked a U.N. base in northern Mali with car bombs and rockets on Saturday, killing one Chadian member of the U.N. peacekeeping mission and wounding another, the mission said.

Mali is still recovering from a period of turmoil that began in 2012 when al Qaeda-linked fighters seized its desert north in the wake of a Tuareg uprising. A French-led military operation in early 2013 scattered them but Islamist fighters have intensified their attacks in recent months.

Gunfire erupted from the area of the U.N. camp in Kidal in the morning, followed by the sound of rockets exploding, residents said. The shooting lasted around 10 minutes.

The peacekeeper was killed when a suicide bomber exploded his vehicle at a U.N. checkpoint around a kilometer from the peacekeepers' camp, the U.N. mission in Mali (MINUSMA) said in a statement.

A second vehicle exploded at one of the entrances to the base, it said. Eight rockets were fired at the camp but only two of them landed inside, causing serious material damage, it said.

"Such violence targeting the U.N. peacekeeping forces is a serious crime. Those responsible must be brought to justice," said Arnauld Akodjenou, deputy U.N. special representative for Mali.

On Friday, gunmen believed to be linked to separatist groups attacked the central Mali town of Tenenkou, killing at least three people during an intense gun battle with members of the army, local and military sources said.

MINUSMA said it had seen armed groups heading toward the area on Friday, calling it a violation of the terms of an earlier ceasefire. Peace talks between Mali's government and separatist groups on the future of the restive north are due to resume soon in Algiers.

Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo and Adama Diarra; Additional reporting by Daniel Flynn in Dakar; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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