BAMAKO: Eight UN peacekeepers were killed and several were wounded while repelling an attack by armed assailants near a village in northern Mali on Sunday, the West African nation`s UN mission said.
The identity of the attackers was not immediately clear UN 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 on Sunday following an attack "by assailants in many armed vehicles," the UN 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 neighbouring 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 UN Security Council then deployed peacekeepers, which have been targets of a concerted guerrilla campaign.