BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Four U.N. peacekeepers and a Malian soldier were killed and 21 others injured in two attacks on peacekeepers in Mali on Friday, U.N. officials said.
Suspected jihadists attacked peacekeepers carrying out on an operation with Malian defense forces in Indelimane, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) west of Menaka near the border with Niger, on Friday morning, the officials said.
Later Friday, unknown assailants carried out an attack against a U.N. convoy north of Douentza in the Mopti region, the officials said.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned "the outrageous attacks" and warned that targeting U.N. peacekeepers may constitute war crimes and lead to sanctions, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.
The U.N. mission in Mali and U.N. officials in New York said peacekeepers repelled the Friday morning attack in Indelimane but three peacekeepers from Niger and one Malian soldier were killed, and about 17 soldiers and one civilian working for the U.N. were injured.
The U.N. mission reported that at least three assailants were also killed.
The mission in Mali evacuated the injured and dispatched a quick reaction force supported by attack helicopters to Indelimane to reinforce the peacekeepers on the ground, the U.N. said.
In the second attack near Douentza, the U.N. mission said peacekeepers engaged the assailants in heavy fighting that involved rocket launchers.
One peacekeeper was killed and three others were seriously injured, the mission said.
A 2012 uprising prompted mutinous soldiers to overthrow Mali's president of a decade. The power vacuum that was created ultimately led to an Islamic insurgency and a French-led war that ousted the jihadists from power in 2013. But insurgents remain active in the region.
The U.N. Security Council condemned the first attack in Indelimane in the strongest terms and called on Mali's government to swiftly investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice. Council members also underlined that attacks targeting peacekeepers may constitute war crimes, and any involvement could lead to U.N. sanctions.
The council expressed concern at the security situation in Mali and the broader Sahel region and urged Malian parties to fully implement a 2015 peace agreement "without further delay."
Members said actions by the 5,000-strong force being formed by five Sahel nations — Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad — to fight terrorist and criminal groups will contribute to "a more secure environment" in the region.
The more than 11,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali has become the most dangerous in the world for soldiers as Islamic militants routinely attack U.N. peacekeepers and convoys across the north.
As of October, there had been 146 fatalities since the mission was established in 2013, according to U.N. peacekeeping data.