Gunfire and explosions tore through a UN peacekeeping camp in the northern Malian city of Kidal on Friday, killing at least six people, according to officials.
Smoke could be seen rising from the camp of the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and witnesses said gunfire and the sounds of mortar shelling could be heard from a distance.
At least six peacekeepers from the UN mission were killed and 30 others were wounded in the attack on the camp by suspected jihadists, said Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the head of the UN in Mali.
Reporting from the region, FRANCE 24’s François Rihouay cited MINUSMA officials who said that several mortars had been shot at the compound, at the same time as “a suicide vehicle bomber blew himself up while trying to get into the camp”.
“It is an attack by the Islamists, apparently involving a suicide car bomb. There are some dead and wounded but I do not know the exact number,” Radouane Ag Mohamed Aly, a spokesman for the Tuareg separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements, (CMA) told Reuters.
The attack on MINUSMA came a week after an attack on a UN mission police base in the northern Malian city of Timbuktu killed a Malian soldier.
Jihadist groups remain active in northern Mali, three years after a French military operation retook the sandy, under-populated region from jihadist control. The region, the size of France, first fell to Tuareg separatists and jihadist fighters linked to al Qaeda in 2012. But a mix of Islamist groups subsequently sidelined the Tuaregs to wrest full control of the north.
Violence has been increasing in West Africa over the past few months. A November 2015 attack on a luxury hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako left 20 people dead. Last month a similar attack was launched on a hotel in Ouagadougou, the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso, killing 30. Both attacks were claimed by al Qaeda’s North Africa branch, known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM.
“The people of Kidal say that this attack is no surprise since the UN camp is under permanent threat,” FRANCE 24’s François Rihouay referring to the handful of different militant Islamist groups which both Malian and foreign intelligence services say have dormant cells in the city.