Sunday 17 November 2019

Two children and UN peacekeeper killed in rocket attack

Press Association

Two children and a UN peacekeeper have been killed in a rocket attack on a UN base in Mali's north-eastern city of Kidal.

More than 30 rockets and shells hit the UN base on Sunday, spokesman Olivier Salgado said.

Another 14 people were wounded. The peacekeeper was from Chad, and 11 of the wounded were peacekeepers.

The attack came a day after a masked gunman sprayed bullets into a restaurant and bar in Mali's capital, Bamako, killing five people, including a Frenchman and a Belgian.

A group formed by the elusive and dreaded Algerian extremist leader Moktar Belmoktar claimed responsibility for the rare burst of violence in the capital.

Belmoktar said it was a reprisal attack "against the heathen West which has offended our prophet" and in revenge for the killing of a leader of the Al Mourabitoun group in a French-Malian military operation.

Al Mourabitoun, or The Sentinels, is a northern Mali jihadi group allied with al-Qaida. The claim of responsibility was carried on the Mauritanian news website Al-Akhbar, which often receives messages from Malian extremists.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack Sunday on Kidal, but the Islamic extremist group Ansar Dine claimed a similar attack against UN peacekeepers in Kidal in September 2014. Kidal is located some 930 miles north-east of Bamako, which previously had been spared the sporadic violence in the north.

The spokesman for UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said at least four shells landed inside the U.N. mission's camp and on a civilian home just outside it.

"The killing of UN peacekeepers and civilian Malians is intolerable and a breach of international humanitarian law," the statement said.

The UN security council issued a statement condemning Sunday's attack "in the strongest terms" and urged the government in Mali to swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice.

Saturday's attack at La Terrasse, a restaurant and bar that is popular with foreigners, stunned Malians.

In addition to those killed, nine people were wounded including two experts for the UN mission, according to the UN stabilisation mission in Mali. The two are Swiss soldiers and were flown to Senegal for treatment, said the Swiss Defence Ministry.

Islamist extremists seized control of northern Mali in 2012 with the aim of imposing Sharia law in the country.

French forces led a military operation in early 2013 that largely killed or scattered extremists from the vast area they had controlled in north-eastern Mali, and a stabilisation mission continues amid sporadic attacks.

Among survivors was Belmoktar, the Algerian extremist and trafficker who at one point was the southern chief of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, roaming the Sahel region before he broke with the affiliate.

The claim of responsibility said the Bamako attack was also a response to the December killing of Ahmed el Tilemsi, a founding member of the militant Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa that fused with forces loyal to Belmoktar to form Mourabitoune.

Belmoktar, widely thought to have taken refuge in Libya, has a reputation as the most dangerous man in the Sahara.

His loyalists led a brazen attack on a natural gas facility at Ain Amenas, Algeria, in January 2013, shortly after the French intervened in Mali. The attack killed scores of foreign and Algerian employees.

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