Malian militant group Ansar Dine claimed responsibility for a suicide and rocket attack on a U.N. base in Kidal, north Mali on Friday that killed six peacekeepers and wounded others, the SITE Intelligence Group said.
Militants used a van packed with explosives to ram the Kidal base, before attacking it with mortar and machine gunfire.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has condemned the assaults on peacekeepers saying they “constitute a war crime,” and will not deter them from supporting the Malian government.
The UN is trying to restore peace to the north, which was overrun in 2012 by jihadists and ethnic Tuareg groups.
Ansar Dine, led by Tuareg commander Iyad Ag Ghali, briefly seized the desert north together with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in 2012 and the two groups are involved in an escalating insurgency that has gone as far as Mali’s borders.
Muhammad Abdullah bin Hudhayfa al-Hosni from Mauritania was the suicide bomber who blew himself up with a truck bomb, Ansar Dine said in its latest statement.
It was not immediately clear if Ansar Dine was also responsible for an ambush on Malian soldiers near Timbuktu on Friday that killed three.
“The (Kidal) operation is a message to the Crusader invaders and all those who support them and promise to send their soldiers to us, like the German President said in his current visit to Bamako,” according to the statement sent late on Friday.
After the several attacks on U.N. peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) in Mali, Germany has promised to send 650 soldiers to help support the mission. Also, President Joachim Gauck visited Mali’s southern capital Bamako on Friday.
MINUSMA, which consist of 9,142 soldiers according to latest UN figures, has the highest rate of casualties among active U.N. missions and a large number of the dead are Africans who occupy some of the most dangerous front-line positions in the north.
In addition to U.N. peacekeepers, militant strikes have targeted hotels popular with Westerners, killing 30 in Ouagadougou in January, and Malian army checkpoints.
The six dead peacekeepers in the Kidal attack were all from neighboring Guinea, the U.N. Security Council said in a statement.