3 peacekeepers killed, 6 wounded by attack in northern Mali

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BAMAKO, Mali — Three United Nations peacekeepers from Ivory Coast died and six more were wounded Wednesday when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device and they came under attack by unidentified gunmen in northern Mali's Timbuktu region, the U.N. mission in Mali and Ivory Coast’s army said.

The deaths occurred during a security operation along the Douentza and Timbuktu axis about 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of the town of Bamabara-Maoude, the mission known as MINUSMA said in a statement.

The attackers fled the scene and medical evacuations were carried out by helicopters, the mission said.

Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the U.N. special envoy who heads the U.N. mission, condemned the attack.

“At a time when all efforts are being made to bring Mali out of the rut, I deeply deplore the upsurge in these attacks against national and international forces, as well as civilian populations,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the attack and emphasized that attacks on U.N. peacekeepers “may constitute a war crime," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“He calls on the Malian authorities to spare no efforts in identifying and promptly bringing to justice the perpetrators of this heinous attack," Dujarric said.

The chief of staff of Ivory Coast’s army, Gen. Lassina Doumbia, said the three dead peacekeepers were from Ivory Coast and they were attacked by extremists.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission has been in Mali since 2013, after Islamic extremists took control of major towns in the north. A French-led military operation dislodged the rebels, but the jihadists have since regrouped in rural areas and expanded their reach, targeting Mali’s army and the U.N. mission.

According to the U.N., 231 peacekeepers in Mali have been killed due to hostile incidents.

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Associated Press writer Baba Ahmed reported this story in Bamako, Mali, and AP writer Toussaint N’Gotta reported from Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Baba Ahmed And Toussaint N'Gotta, The Associated Press