Paris, Apr 15 (AFP) Around 15 militants have been killed in an attack on a United Nations base in northern Mali’s historic city of Timbuktu, the French military said today.

The UN’s MINUSMA force told AFP one of its peacekeepers had been killed in yesterday’s four-hour rocket, mortar and car bomb attack at international troops’ “Super Camp” neighbouring Timbuktu’s airport, and around a dozen were wounded.

France said seven of its soldiers were hurt, lowering an initial toll from Malian authorities who had said a dozen French troops were wounded.

Some of the assailants, who have yet to be identified, came disguised as peacekeepers in order to sow confusion among troops trying to repel the attack.

UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix deplored the assault on Twitter, vowing: “Our determination to support peace in Mali remains unshakeable.” French military spokesman Patrik Steiger said the attackers had “failed in their objective of causing the maximum damage possible”.

“Around 15 (attackers) were killed,” he added, some of them outside the military camp’s outer walls.

“Some attackers managed to enter, including some disguised as peacekeepers,” he said, adding the attack had not involved any friendly fire.

Mali’s security ministry said yesterday the assailants had tried to detonate two car bombs, one of them a vehicle in the colours of the Malian armed forces and the other carrying the UN logo.

The first exploded while troops managed to immobilise the second, the ministry said.

The French military said there had been three car bombs.

Steiger said allied troops managed to regain control with the help of fighter jets sent from a French base in neighbouring Niger as well as helicopters carrying elite troops.

“By dawn the situation was stable,” he said.

Mali’s unrest stems from a 2012 Tuareg separatist uprising against the state which was exploited by jihadists in order to take over key cities in the north.

More than a dozen of Timbuktu’s holy shrines, built in the 15th and 16th centuries when the city was revered as a centre of Islamic learning, were razed in a campaign against idolatry by Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists.

The extremists were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

But vast stretches of the country remain out of the control of Malian, French and UN forces, which are frequent targets of attacks.

The UN’s Timbuktu Super Camp, where yesterday’s attack took place, was already the scene of an attack last May which killed a Liberian peacekeeper and wounded nine.

In August 2017 armed men launched another assault on the camp, which hosts MINUSMA contingents from numerous countries. Seven security force members and six attackers were killed, according to the UN. (AFP) KIS KIS

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.