14 December 2013

Mali Suicide Attack Kills UN Troops in Restive Northern City of Kidal

A car bomb attack in Mali's troubled northern city of Kidal has killed several UN troops. No group has claimed responsibility in the region where Islamist groups and separatist Tuareg rebels are still active.

At least two members of the UN peacekeeping force known as MINUSMA were killed on Saturday when a suicide bomber drove an explosive-laden car into a bank they were guarding.

Saturday's attack came a day before Mali holds a second round of legislative polls. The election is the fourth time voters will have gone to the polls in less than six months and marks the final stage in Mali's return to democracy in the wake of the military coup.

Two dead, says source

"For the moment, we have at least two dead and several wounded among the MINUSMA African troops," a UN source said on condition of anonymity.

The bomber is also reported to have died in the attack, which took place at around 6.45 a.m. local time (0645 UTC).

There has been no official confirmation on the death toll and no immediate claim of responsibility.

Kidal destabilized

Kidal, which is located some 1600 kilometers (1000 miles) northeast of Mali's capital Bamako, was destabilized by an ethnic Tuareg rebellion which began in late 2011.

Al Qaeda-linked fighters then seized on further instability created by a military coup in March 2012 to hijack the rebellion and seize large swathes of the country's north.

They held the region for almost a year before they were largely ousted by a French-led military intervention in January 2013.

Islamists still remain active in the region and are reported to have carried out a number attacks on UN peacekeepers. They also claimed responsibility for the deaths of two French journalists in Kidal last month.

The Tuareg separatist group, the MLNA, or National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, has since seized control of the city, which it claims is part of an independent homeland they call Azawad.

Clashes between the rebels and government troops two weeks ago prompted the MLNA to declare that a five-month ceasefire pact was over.

 - AFP, Reuters, AP

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