A peacekeeper and two children died on Sunday as militants shelled a UN base in northern Mali, heightening security fears as police hunted militants who launched a deadly Bamako nightclub assault.
The UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) said more than 30 rockets were fired at its barracks in the rebel stronghold of Kidal from 5:40am.
“Once they had established from where the rockets were being fired, MINUSMA troops immediately returned fire two kilometers from the compound, at around 6:00,” the force said in a statement.
“According to preliminary reports, one MINUSMA soldier died and eight others were injured. The shelling also claimed victims among the citizens of Kidal outside the compound, killing two and injuring four,” the statement said.
The force said in an update on Twitter that the civilian victims — members of the nomadic Arab Kunta tribe — were children and that only three had been wounded.
Their encampment near the UN base was hit by stray rockets as the attack got under way, a MINUSMA source said.
Sources in MINUSMA also said the peacekeeper, like the majority of personnel at the base, was Chadian.
The UN Security Council issued a statement condemning the “heinous” assault and warned that “those responsible for the attack shall be held accountable” while calling on the Malian government to investigate.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the “intolerable” killings, calling them a “breach of international humanitarian law.”
“MINUSMA strongly condemns these heinous terrorist acts, whose only goal is to thwart all the efforts currently under way to achieve lasting peace in Mali,” the force said.
No group has claimed responsibility, although Kidal is the cradle of northern Mali’s Tuareg separatist movement, which has launched several uprisings from the region since the 1960s.
Tuareg and Arab militias — loyalist and anti-government — have forged a peace agreement with the Malian government formulated last week in Algiers, although the main rebel groups have yet to sign it.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other militant groups also carry out attacks in Kidal, including the 2013 murders of two French journalists.
In Bamako, police in bulletproof vests patrolled the area where a masked gunman early on Saturday had burst into La Terrasse, a popular venue among expatriates, spraying automatic gunfire and throwing grenades.
Al-Murabitoun, an extremist group run by leading Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has claimed responsibility for that attack, which left a Frenchman, a Belgian and three Malians dead.
It said in an audio recording carried by Mauritanian news agency al-Akbar the operation was carried out “to avenge our prophet against the unbelieving West which has insulted and mocked him.”
“We cannot say much more at this stage but there are clues about the vehicle used to transport the author of the crimes committed in Bamako,” a police source said.
The French victim has been named as 30-year-old Fabien Guyomard, a single man with no children who had lived in Bamako since 2007 and worked at US construction company ICMS Africa.
Malian Prime Minister Modibo Keita and President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita visited eight people who were being treated in hospital, including two Swiss weapons experts advising the Malian government.
The pair — both soldiers — were later repatriated to Bern, the Swiss military said in Geneva.
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