Nine United Nations peacekeepers from Niger were killed and others wounded on Friday morning during an ambush in Mali about 15 kilometers east of Indelimane in the northern Gao region.
Calling it “the deadliest attack committed” against members of the peacekeeping mission, a U.N. statement said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is “shocked and outraged.”
The statement said “attacks on U.N. peacekeepers constitute a serious violation of international law” and called on armed groups in northern Mali to abide by their declaration of September 16 in Algiers to restrain from attack against peacekeepers. Ban expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the victims.
With peace talks between the Malian government and Tuareg rebels ongoing, Ban urged all parties to demonstrate “good faith and commitment to a political solution.”
Deputy U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said the peacekeepers were traveling with a convoy from Menaka to Ansongo when they came under attack by unidentified, armed gunmen on motorbikes.
“I am horrified by this cowardly act of terrorism. ... Once again, lives have been lost today in the name of peace in Mali,” Arnauld Akodjenou, deputy head of the U.N. mission, known as MINUSMA, said in a statement.
U.N. peacekeepers have deployed in the northern part of Mali in an effort to provide security in the area controlled by a mix of al-Qaida-linked Islamists and Malian insurgents.
The presence of international troops allowed Mali to hold elections last summer, but France has since redeployed some of its forces elsewhere and there has been a spike in attacks by Islamists in recent months.
Ten Chadian peacekeepers were killed in Mali last month, prompting accusations from Chad that its troops were being neglected by the U.N. mission.
The latest casualties bring to 30 the number of peacekeepers killed and to 90 those wounded since the mission to Mali began on July 1, 2013.
Some information in this story was provided by AP, AFP. Some material was provided by Reuters.