BAMAKO, Mali – Six United Nations peacekeepers were killed and five wounded in an attack on their convoy in north Mali near Timbuktu, the U.N. Mali mission said Thursday.
The convoy was attacked in the morning about 27 miles south of Timbuktu while patrolling on the road between Goundam and Timbuktu, the mission said. The wounded are being evacuated and reinforcements are being sent to the attack site, including helicopters for air support, it said.
Two vehicles were also destroyed in the attack.
It was unclear who staged the attack but Tuareg camp residents in the area said they saw a jihadist flag on the attackers' vehicles.
U.N. Mali envoy Mongi Hamdi denounced the attack.
"I strongly condemn this new terrorist attack on our peacekeepers. Those responsible for this heinous crime must be identified and brought to justice as soon as possible," he said.
Northern Mali has been engulfed in conflict for years. A French-led military intervention launched in 2013 scattered the Islamic extremists that had taken the north, though the region remains insecure and in recent months violence has extended further south. Earlier this month, Mali's main coalition of Tuareg separatist rebels signed a peace agreement with the government.
The U.N. mission in Mali is one of the deadliest for peacekeepers, with dozens killed since the mission was established in April 2013.
The commander of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, Danish Maj. Gen. Michael Lollesgaard, told the Security Council earlier this month that his force is not geared to operate in an environment where troops face attacks from hostile jihadist groups and others.