Suspected Islamist militants attacked a U.N. base in the northern Mali town of Kidal with mortars and a truck bomb on Friday, killing three peacekeepers from Guinea and wounding 30 others, authorities said.
The attack is a fresh sign of instability in the desert region that is home to Islamist groups including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb who have staged increasingly bold raids in recent months and have targeted the U.N. base several times.
“At about 7 a.m. (0700 GMT) the MINUSMA base in Kidal was the target of a complex attack which, according to provisional figures, caused the death of three blue helmets and around 30 wounded,” Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the Mali representative of the U.N. secretary general, said in a statement.
Eight mortar shells were fired at the base and there was also gunfire, said Olivier Salgado, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission, whose acronym is MINUSMA.
“This combination attack using rockets and a van bomb is the second of this type against soldiers from the Gangan battalion in this region,” said a statement from Guinea’s government.
The base is part of an attempt by the United Nations to end violence in Mali following a takeover of the north by Islamists in 2012, which was thwarted by a French-led intervention force that pushed the militants out of key towns a year later.
The U.N. mission has not stopped the violence and Islamist militants have expanded their attacks in recent months into other parts of Mali and beyond.
These have included an attack on a hotel in Mali’s capital in November in which 20 people died, and one on Burkina Faso’s capital in January in which 30 were killed.
There is also a decades-long separatist struggle in northern Mali by ethnic Tuaregs.
Radouane Ag Mohamed Aly, spokesman for the separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), told Reuters that the attack had been conducted by Islamist militants.
There was no official confirmation or claim of responsibility for the Kidal raid.
In a separate incident, three soldiers were killed on Friday and three others wounded in an ambush of a military convoy on the road between Timbuktu and Goundon in northern Mali, a military source said.
The wounded were evacuated to Timbuktu hospital. It was not clear who conducted the ambush.
(Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)