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Mali al-Qaida branch claims responsibility for attack on UN

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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — SITE Intelligence Group says Mali's al-Qaida branch claimed responsibility for an attack on a United Nations peacekeeping mission that killed at least 10 peacekeepers and wounded at least 25 others Sunday in northern Mali's Kidal region.

Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam Muslimeen, known as JNIM and formed in 2017, said it carried out the attack in response to Chad renewing diplomatic ties with Israel, according to the U.S.-based monitoring group. SITE said JNIM suggested the attack was the first of its many "responses" to Chad's relations with Israel.

The renewed ties were announced after a recent visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Chad.

The attack targeted the base in Aguelhoc, which houses Chadian peacekeepers. Peacekeepers from Chad, a strong contributor to regional security efforts, have suffered repeated assaults in Mali.

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said U.N. forces "responded robustly" to the attack and three assailants were killed while a fourth was captured. A U.N. official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the attackers arrived in about 20 vehicles.

The wounded peacekeepers were receiving medical attention and seven have been transferred to Dakar, Senegal's capital, for further treatment, Dujarric said Monday.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the attack and spoke Sunday with Chadian President Idriss Deby "to personally convey his condolences," Dujarric said.

Guterres called on Malian authorities and signatories to a 2015 peace agreement "to spare no effort in identifying the perpetrators of this attack so that they can be brought to justice as swiftly as possible," according to the U.N. spokesman.

Dujarric said the secretary-general stressed that such attacks "will not diminish the resolve of the United Nations to continue supporting the people and government of Mali in their efforts to build peace and stability in the country,"

Mali is the most dangerous of the U.N.'s far-flung peacekeeping missions. Half of the mission's 22 deaths last year were due to "malicious acts," according to the United Nations.

Mali al-Qaida branch claims responsibility for attack on UN
Mali al-Qaida branch claims responsibility for attack on UN