Peacekeepers had thwarted the attack, but eight died and several were wounded. Mission chief Mahamat Saleh Annadif demanded “a robust, swift and concerted response.”
Eight U.N. peacekeepers were killed and several were wounded while repelling an attack by armed assailants near a village in northern Mali Sunday, the West African nation’s U.N. mission said.
The identity of the attackers was not immediately clear. U.N. peacekeeping and French forces are stationed in northern Mali to combat well-armed jihadist groups seen as the gravest threat to security across Africa’s Sahel region.
The clash near Aguelhok occurred early Sunday following an attack “by assailants in many armed vehicles,” the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) said in a statement.
It said peacekeepers had thwarted the attack, but eight died and several were wounded. The mission’s chief Mahamat Saleh Annadif demanded “a robust, swift and concerted response.”
A 2015 peace deal signed by Mali’s government and separatist groups has failed to end the violence. Islamists 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 U.N. Security Council then deployed peacekeepers, which have been targets of a concerted guerrilla campaign.
Mali is one of Africa's G5 Sahel countries, with th others being Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger and Chad. Various projects have been plagued with insurgent violence and terrorist attacks since the collapse of Libya in 2011 and after an uprising in northern Mali in 2012.
As a result, the countries launched a 5,000-man strong joint combat initiative backed by the EU, France, and Germany in July 2017. They are set to receive increased funding from the European Union (EU) as agreed in December 2018 to help address their security concerns.