Mortar attack on UN base in north Mali kills 3, injures 20

Islamic Extremism

U.N. photo of Kidal, Mali on July 11, 2013. (MINUSMA / Blagoje Grujic via Flickr)

Mortars lit up the dawn sky when they were fired on a United Nations base in the northern Mali city of Kidal early Saturday, killing at least three people.

The attack came eight days after Islamic extremists attacked a luxury hotel further south in the capital, Bamako, in which 20 people were killed.

Two U.N. peacekeepers and a contractor were killed in the Saturday assault in Kidal that also injured 20 people, leaving four in serious condition, said Olivier Salgado, spokesman for the U.N. mission in Mali.

Guinea’s Ministry of Defense said two of its soldiers were killed. A statement by the U.N. Security Council condemning the attack said the contractor killed was from Burkina Faso.

A Kidal resident said about six shells were fired by attackers at dawn.

“The earth vibrated then I saw two flares in the air and then another one burst, which gave me the impression of being a response by the U.N.,” said Assarid Ag Cheick.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack in the country’s restless north but Islamic extremists are suspected.

Kidal, July 11, 2013. Officials of the Malian goverment arrive in Kidal, northern Mali onboard UN plane. Kidal's Governer has arrived in town on the same flight, thus putting the Malian government back in Kidal, which was a rebel Tuareg stronghold for more than a year. (MINUSMA / Blagoje Grujic)

Photo of Kidal, Maily on July 11, 2013. (MINUSMA / Blagoje Grujic via Flickr)

“I want to reiterate that these attacks will not impede the determination of the United Nations to support the Malian people and the peace process,” said Mongi Hamdi, the head of the U.N. mission. “I express my solidarity and salute the brave men and women serving (the U.N. mission) throughout the country for their efforts to bringing lasting peace to Mali in these difficult conditions.”

Northern Mali has been unstable since it fell to Tuareg separatists and then Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. Separatists, militia groups and the government signed a peace deal in June.

Kidal, 17 July 2013. United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Field Support, Anthony Banbury visited town of Kidal in northern Mali. (MINUSMA/Blagoje Grujic)

Photo of U.N. field support office in Kidal, Mali on July 17, 2013 during U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Field Support, Anthony Banbury’s visit. (MINUSMA/Blagoje Grujic via Flickr)

In 2013, the French pushed Islamic militants out of Mali’s northern cities and towns, but jihadists continue to carry out attacks, often targeting U.N. peacekeepers.

Extremists extended their reach further south this year, including an assault on a Bamako restaurant and bar popular with foreigners in March that killed five people and another on a hotel in Mali’s central Sevare town in August that killed 13. Islamic extremist group Al-Mourabitoun claimed responsibility for both attacks.

The group has said it worked with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb on the Nov. 20 assault on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako. However, responsibility for the attack was also claimed by other militant groups.

Malian authorities have said they arrested two men over the violence.

Story by the Associated Press