Islamist group Ansar Dine has claimed responsibility for an ambush in northeastern Mali that killed five Chadian UN peacekeepers.
“Our mujahedeens attacked… soldiers working in the international alliance against us,” a senior member of the jihadist group, Nourredine Ag Mohamed, told AFP yesterday.
“Many enemies” were killed, he added, without giving a precise toll.
The peacekeepers were attacked Wednesday as they were escorting a convoy in Aguelhok in the Kidal region.
They hit a landmine and then came under sustained gunfire, according to a statement on the UN Mali mission’s social media accounts.
Five Chadian peacekeepers were killed and three others wounded, according to the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
Wednesday’s attack was the worst since a February assault on the MINUSMA camp in Kidal by Malian Islamist group Ansar Dine in which seven Guineans were killed.
The Mali mission is the most dangerous active deployment for UN peacekeepers and it has been hit by sharp internal tensions since its launch in July 2013.
So far, 59 peacekeepers have been killed while on active service, while another four have died in friendly fire incidents, UN figures show.
The bodies of the five Chadian soldiers will be repatriated to N’Djamena following a ceremony in the Malian capital Bamako, to be held in the coming days, a MINUSMA source told AFP.
Ansar Dine was one of several Islamist factions that conquered vast swathes of the Mali’s north in 2012 before being repulsed by French troops.
A landmark peace agreement was reached last year between the Mali government and the rebels, but jihadist violence remains a threat and the government has been unable to maintain security with domestic forces alone.