UN soldier killed in ‘complex’ Mali attack


Three deaths reported in Kidal, including a UN soldier, a day after blast in Bamako nightclub killed five people

Three people including a U.N. soldier were killed and 14 wounded in a rocket attack on a U.N. base, the United Nations mission in Mali said.

More than 30 rockets and shells hit the U.N. base in Kidal early Sunday morning, killing a U.N. soldier and two civilian children, said Olivier Salgado, the spokesman for the U.N. mission in Mali. An additional 14 people were wounded.

At least one of the rockets fell on a Tuareg camp, Radhia Achouri, a U.N. spokesperson, told Al Jazeera from the capital Bamako.

“It was a terrorist attack of a very complex nature, in the sense that they used mortars and shells from different locations; from the north and the south of the base,” she said.

“They launched at least 30 mortars at the camp and some of them landed inside the camp, which explains the casualty among our men and the civilians as well.”

The attack came a day after a masked gunman sprayed bullets into a restaurant and bar in Mali’s capital, Bamako, killing five people, including a Frenchman and a Belgian.

A group formed by Algerian Moktar Belmoktar claimed responsibility for the rare burst of violence in the Malian capital. Belmoktar said it was a reprisal attack “against the heathen West which has offended our prophet” and in revenge for the killing of a leader of the Al Mourabitoun group in a French-Malian military operation.

The claim of responsibility by Al Mourabitoun, or The Sentinels, was carried on the Mauritanian news website Al-Akhbar which often receives messages from Malian fighters. Al Mourabitoun is a northern Mali group allied with Al-Qaeda.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack Sunday on Kidal, but the group Ansar Dine claimed a similar attack against U.N. peacekeepers in Kidal in September 2014. Kidal is located some 930 miles northeast of Bamako which has been spared the sporadic violence in the north.

The members of the U.N. Security Council on Sunday issued a statement condemning the attack “in the strongest terms” and urged the government in Mali to swiftly investigate it and bring the perpetrators to justice.

They pointed out that attacks targeting peacekeepers “may constitute war crimes under international law.”

Saturday’s bloody attack at La Terrasse, a restaurant and bar that is popular with foreigners, stunned Malians. In addition to those killed, nine people were wounded including two experts for the U.N. mission, according to the U.N. stabilization mission in Mali. The two are Swiss soldiers and were flown to Senegal for treatment, said the Swiss Defense Ministry.

Armed fighters seized control of northern Mali in 2012 with the aim of imposing Sharia law in the country.

French forces led a military operation in early 2013 that largely killed or scattered the fighters from the vast area they had controlled in northeastern Mali, and a stabilization mission continues amid sporadic attacks. Among those who survived the French operation was Belmoktar, the Algerian who at one point was the southern chief of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, roaming the Sahel region before he broke with the affiliate.

The claim of responsibility said the Bamako attack was also a response to the December killing of Ahmed el Tilemsi, a founding member of the militant Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa that fused with forces loyal to Belmoktar to form Mourabitoune.

Belmoktar, widely thought to have taken refuge in Libya, has a reputation as the most dangerous man in the Sahara. His loyalists led a brazen attack on a natural gas facility at Ain Amenas, Algeria, in January 2013, shortly after the French intervened in Mali. The attack killed scores of foreign and Algerian employees.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press