June 1, 2017 / 3:01 PM / in 3 months

French soldiers wounded in Mali mortar attack: army

PARIS (Reuters) - Several French soldiers were wounded on Thursday, one seriously, in a mortar attack claimed by al Qaeda's local affiliate on a United Nations peacekeeping camp in northern Mali.

In a statement, the French army said the attack on Thursday morning targeted the MINUSMA peacekeeping force in Timbuktu, close to a French unit operating as part of a separate counter-terrorism operation.

"In this attack several French soldiers were wounded, including one in a serious condition," the French statement said.

An al Qaeda affiliate in Mali, Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, said it carried out the "barrage of mortar shells". The claim was made in a post on social media, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group.

France intervened in 2013 to drive out al Qaeda-linked militants who had seized northern Mali the year before. It has since deployed more than 4,500 soldiers, known as the Barkhane force, across the region to hunt down Islamists.

That operation paved the way for the United Nations to deploy its more than 10,000-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping force to the West African state.

Reporting by John Irish; Additional reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Andrew Bolton

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