Nouakchott (Mauritania) Jun 1: Al-Qaeda's North Africa arm has claimed responsibility for two attacks against the United Nation's MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Mali this week.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said it was behind a "rocket attack on a MINUSMA base" in northern Mali on Tuesday and a landmine explosion Thursday targeting a UN convoy in the restive north, according to Mauritanian news agency Al-Akhbar, citing AQIM spokesman Abderrahmane Al-Azawadi.
The Al-Akhbar agency regularly carries jihadist statements. MINUSMA on Tuesday said a Bangladeshi peacekeeper had been shot dead and another wounded in "an incident". And on Thursday, MINUSMA announced that three Burkina Faso peacekeepers were wounded when their convoy triggered at least one mine in the Timbuktu region.
The AQIM spokesman, however, said the mine blast had caused "three deaths", Al-Akhbar reported. MINUSMA commander Major General Michael Lollesgaard and the mission's police chief were part of the convoy, MINUSMA sources told AFP.
With 35 peacekeepers killed in combat since MINUSMA's inception in 2013, the UN has described northern Mali as the deadliest place on earth for its personnel. The country's northern desert has been plagued by violence from jihadist groups that seized control of the region from Tuareg rebels before being routed by a French-led international intervention in 2013.
Despite peaceful elections after the French operation, the country remains deeply divided and the north has seen an upsurge in attacks recently.