U.N. says four peacekeepers killed in north Mali attack

A UN peacekeeper is seen in a file photo. January 19, 2010. REUTERS/Bruno/File Photo

BAMAKO (Reuters) - The United Nations mission in Mali said on Friday that four peacekeepers were killed and several others injured in an attack on its base in the northern town of Aguelhok.

Peacekeepers repelled the attack, carried out by several “heavily armed terrorists”, a U.N. mission statement said. Islamist insurgents are active in northern Mali.

“A provisional toll shows four peacekeepers dead and wounded. Helicopters were dispatched to the scene to evacuate the wounded,” the statement said.

Around 20 of 100 attackers were killed in the assault, which lasted around three hours, a U.N. spokeswoman said.

“The attack started with mortar fire, followed by an attempted car bomb and then a direct attack,” the spokeswoman said.

The U.N. mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, has deployed over 13,000 troops to contain violence by armed groups in the north and centre of the country. It has recorded about 230 fatalities since 2013, making it the deadliest of the U.N.’s more than dozen peacekeeping missions.

Islamist militants linked to Al Qaeda and Islamic State have stepped up activity in Africa’s Sahel region in recent years, displacing thousands. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s attack.

In a separate attack on a military post in central Mali on Friday, three Malian soldiers were killed and 17 wounded, six seriously, the army said in a statement read on the state broadcaster.

The air force destroyed four heavily armed enemy vehicles, the army said, killing 10 attackers.

Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo and Paul Lorgerie; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Mark Heinrich, John Stonestreet and Chris Reese