Ten UN Peacekeepers in Mali Killed in Attack Over Chad's Renewed Relations With Israel

Netanyahu visited Chad on Sunday to formally renew diplomatic ties, which had been severed in 1972 ■ Islamist group affiliated with Al-Qaida in Mali claims attack

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chad President Idriss Deby sign agreements, N'Djamena, Chad, January 20, 2019.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chad President Idriss Deby sign agreements, N'Djamena, Chad, January 20, 2019.Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO

Ten UN peacekeepers from Chad were killed and at least 25 were wounded while repelling an attack by armed assailants near a village in northern Mali on Sunday, the West African nation's UN mission and the United Nations said. 

An Al-Qaida-linked Islamist group in Mali has claimed responsibility for the attack, the Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen group said in statement posted on Telegram. It said the attack was a response to Chadian President Idriss Deby's revival of diplomatic relations with Israel.

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Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Chad and formally renewed diplomatic ties, which had been severed in 1972.

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UN peacekeeping and French forces are stationed in northern Mali to combat well-armed jihadist groups seen as threatening security across Africa's Sahel region. 

The clash near Aguelhok occurred early on Sunday following an attack by assailants in many armed vehicles, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) said in a statement. 

The United Nations said peacekeepers had thwarted the attack, but 10 died and at least 25 were wounded. 

"The Secretary-General reaffirms that such acts 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," it said. 

A 2015 peace deal signed by Mali's government and separatist groups has failed to end the violence. Islamists have also staged assaults on high-profile targets in the capital, Bamako, and in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. 

French forces intervened in Mali in 2013 to drive back fighters who had hijacked a Tuareg uprising a year earlier, and some 4,000 French troops remain there. The UN Security Council then deployed peacekeepers, which have been targets of a concerted guerrilla campaign.