BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — At least four U.N. peacekeepers were killed and 15 wounded when their convoy hit a mine in northern Mali on Tuesday, a spokesman said.
The group of Chadian peacekeepers was returning from the embattled town of Kidal when they struck a mine about 20 miles (30 kilometers) outside the city, said Olivier Salgado, a spokesman for the force. Six of those hurt are seriously wounded, he said.
Salgado did not speculate on who was behind the attack, the largest in months. But the al-Qaida group operating in the country recently has taken responsibility for several recent attacks on U.N. peacekeepers. Kidal is also the home of a simmering revolt by a Tuareg separatist movement.
Northern Mali fell under control of Tuareg separatists and then al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. A French-led intervention last year scattered the extremists, but some remain active and there have been continued bursts of violence.
U.N. troops are now trying to stabilize the north, and peace talks have begun between the Malian government and Tuaregs, who maintain a heavy presence in Kidal and have pushed back against the authority of the Bamako-based government. Al-Qaida is not participating in those discussions.
“A peace process is under way, some want to compromise it, that’s totally unacceptable and irresponsible,” Bert Koenders, the U.N. special envoy for Mali, said. He added that the secretary-general and the U.N. Security Council have been informed.
The U.N. Security Council, in a press statement, “condemned in the strongest terms” the attack on the Chadian peacekeepers and reiterated its full support for the Mali mission.
“These attacks will not alter the determination of the United Nations to support the Malian people in their search for peace,” said a statement released by the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki also issued a statement late Tuesday condemning the attack and supporting efforts to negotiate “a durable peace” at the talks scheduled to begin in Algeria later this week.
Including those who died Tuesday, 15 peacekeepers have been killed in Mali this year.