bamako, mali, napad.jpg
Photograph: EPA/STR

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) Wednesday claimed responsibility for killing four United Nations staff members and injuring dozens during attacks on two UN sites in Mali.

AQIM had engaged in a "battle" with "crusader occupation forces" in the northern city of Gao, the militants said in a message distributed through pro-militant media group Andalus on social media. The battle was “ongoing,” the statement said. The statement was signed by al-Mourabitoun, a branch of AQIM.

dpa could not independently verify the authenticity of the statement.

The insurgents had fired rockets or mortars at the UN Minusma mission's camp in Gao late on Tuesday, killing one peacekeeper and injuring more than a dozen other soldiers and civilian staff members, the UN mission in Mali said in a statement.

China’s foreign ministry later confirmed the killed peacekeeper was Chinese.

A short time later, AQIM attacked the site of the UN Mine Action Service (Unmas) in Gao, killing an international anti-mining expert and two Malian security officers. The UN later confirmed that the international civilian contractor was French.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was "outraged" by the attacks, said Stephane Dujarric, Ban's spokesman, adding that "nothing can excuse these acts of terrorism" against peacekeepers and UN staff.

The attacks come less than two weeks after five UN peacekeepers were killed in northern Mali when their convoy hit an improvised landmine and then came under fire by an unknown armed group, near the town of Aguelhok, in the northern Kidal region.

More than 70 UN soldiers have been killed in the conflict-ridden West African nation in the past three years.

In response to the attacks, Ban is set to present proposals to the UN Security Council on how to strengthen the UN peacekeeping mission's "posture and capabilities" in the coming days, Dujarric said.

In 2012, northern Mali fell into the hands of Islamist insurgents who were pushed back after an intervention by the country's former colonial power France in early 2013. Various Islamist groups still stage attacks in the area.

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