SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) Men on motorbikes ambushed a convoy of U.N. peacekeepers Friday in northern Mali, killing nine, U.N. officials said, in the deadliest attack yet on the force.
It was the latest in a string of lethal attacks on the peacekeeping force tasked with bringing stability to the West African country after a coup and jihadist offensive last year.
The convoy of troops from Niger included a fuel truck and may have been specifically targeted because of that, said U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.
“Our understanding,” Dujarric said, is that the attackers “were targeting a convoy that included a fuel truck, knowing full well that a fuel truck, I think, would cause an even greater number of casualties, which I think adds to the horrendous nature of the crime.”
The United Nations said in a statement that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was shocked and outraged by the attack.
“At a time when peace negotiations are underway, he insists that all parties must demonstrate good faith and commitment to a political solution and that the perpetrators of these appalling actions are brought to justice,” the statement said.
Air support was immediately deployed to secure the area where the attack took place nine miles east of Indelimane in the northern Gao region, the peacekeeping force said in a statement.
The attackers were carrying heavy arms, according to Olivier Salgado, a spokesman for the force, known as MINUSMA.
“This is the deadliest attack that MINUSMA has suffered since the beginning of the mission,” he said. “The toll is rather serious.”
Despite initial reports that troops were wounded in the attack, a U.N. peacekeeping official said that there were no injuries. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The official said the ambush raises to 30 the death toll for the peacekeeping operation, which was established by the U.N. Security Council in April 2013.
Last month, a roadside bomb killed five peacekeepers and wounded several other Chadian troops near the embattled city of Kidal.
Mines killed five other peacekeepers last month.