October 25, 2014 / 4:43 PM / 3 years ago

Blast injures three U.N. peacekeepers in northern Mali

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Three United Nations peacekeepers were injured in northern Mali on Saturday when a blast struck their convoy near the northern desert town of Kidal, the U.N. mission said.

The attack on the peacekeepers from Senegal is the latest in a string of incidents that has forced France to reinforce its presence in Mali to help the U.N. force weather a resurgence by Islamist militants.

The U.N. peacekeepers were attacked as they were transporting water on a road 12 km (7 miles) southwest of Kidal. The two most seriously injured soldiers will be flown to Dakar for treatment, the U.N. mission said.

David Gressly, deputy chief of the U.N. mission, which is known as MINUSMA, called on armed groups in talks with Mali’s government to warn U.N. troops of any impending attack if they could.

France dispatched thousands of troops last year to retake control of northern towns that had been seized in 2012 by separatist and al Qaeda-linked rebels after a coup in Bamako.

Elections were held last summer and U.N. troops are now meant to help stabilize the north. But at least 20 peacekeepers have been killed in the last two months alone, underscoring how exposed the mission is to ambushes and roadside bombs.

Meanwhile, the Bamako government and armed groups that distanced themselves from the al Qaeda-linked Islamists are holding peace talks in Algeria.

Earlier this year, Paris repositioned some of its troops outside Mali to look at the regional security threat across the Sahara-Sahel zone. But attacks in recent weeks have forced France to send more troops back to Mali.

“These groups are trying to make a return after the defeat they suffered at the hands of the French,” French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in Dakar on Friday.

“We cannot therefore allow this evil to return.”

Reporting by Adama Diarra in Bamako and Diadie Ba in Dakar; Writing by David Lewis, Editing by Rosalind Russell

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