Four members of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, have been killed in two al-Qaeda attacks.
The UN mission said in a statement on Wednesday that a Chinese peacekeeper and three civilians– an international expert and two security guards–working for the MINUSMA were killed in the attacks in the northern town of Gao on Tuesday night.
It added that the MINUSMA camp was targeted in a mortar or rocket attack on Tuesday night, noting that three peacekeepers were also seriously wounded in the attack.
A second armed attack on a de-mining unit of the UN also killed “two security guards and an international expert,” said the same statement.
Al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate AQIM claimed responsibility for the attacks, the US monitoring group, SITE, said.
An African military source said “it is the first time a Chinese UN peacekeeper has been killed in the north,” adding that the assaults also left three Chinese peacekeepers seriously injured.
The source noted that one of the dead civilians was French while the other two were Malians.
China confirmed the killed peacekeeper was Chinese, and strongly slammed the “terrorist attack.”
“This is a grave and outrageous crime, China strongly condemns it, we call for the UN and Mali to carry out a thorough investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a news conference in Beijing on Wednesday.
Mali has been witnessing violence linked to militant activity in its northern regions since 2012. The area remains vulnerable to attacks despite an ongoing French-led military operation launched in January 2013, which came after the UN Security Council passed a resolution on the deployment of MINUSMA.
Last June, Tuareg separatists, who have launched a number of uprisings since the 1960s, signed a peace deal with the Malian government.
The peace agreement, brokered by Algeria, raised hopes for an end to years of unrest in the country; however, its implementation has proven challenging.
The UN mission in Mali has been targeted three times in the last month alone. The UN says 60 peacekeepers have so far been killed while on service in Mali.
Late last month, unidentified gunmen ambushed UN staff, killing five Togolese peacekeepers in central Mali.