BAMAKO, Mali — Ten United Nations peacekeepers from Chad were killed and at least 25 were wounded while repelling an attack by armed assailants near a village in northern Mali on Sunday, the United Nations and the West African nation’s mission said.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was “in reaction” to the visit to Chad by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, according to the Mauritanian Al-Akhbar news agency, which regularly receives statements from this jihadist group.
United Nations peacekeeping and French forces are stationed in northern Mali to combat well-armed jihadist groups seen as a threat to security across Africa’s Sahel region.
The clash near the village of Aguelhok occurred early on Sunday, after an attack by assailants in many armed vehicles, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali said in a statement.
The United Nations said peacekeepers had thwarted the attack, but 10 died and at least 25 were wounded.
The peacekeeping forces “responded robustly and a number of assailants were killed,” said Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for the United Nations, without specifying the toll.
Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the United Nations envoy for Mali, condemned what he called the “vile and criminal” attack. “It demands a robust, immediate and concerted response from all forces to destroy the peril of terrorism in the Sahel.”
A 2015 peace deal signed by Mali’s government and separatist groups has failed to end the violence. Extremists have also staged assaults on high-profile targets in the capital, Bamako, and in neighboring Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
French forces intervened in Mali in 2013 to drive back fighters who had hijacked a Tuareg uprising a year earlier, and some 4,000 French troops remain there. The United Nations Security Council then deployed peacekeepers, which have been targets of a concerted guerrilla campaign.