NIAMEY, Niger (AP) — Niger vowed Saturday that it will not be intimidated into leaving Mali a day after nine of its peacekeepers were killed in an ambush in the neighboring country.
Gunmen on motorbikes on Friday attacked a convoy of Niger's troops who are participating in a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali. The ambush was the deadliest attack on the U.N. force yet.
"Niger will continue to fight terrorism in Mali," said President Mahamadou Issoufou. "Niger will never retreat in in the face of the forces of evil."
The government declared three days of mourning, beginning Sunday.
The convoy appeared to have been specifically targeted because it included a fuel truck, causing an explosion that resulted in multiple casualties. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the attack shocking. But these ambushes are becoming increasingly common in what has become one of the deadliest U.N. missions.
U.N. troops are trying to stabilize Mali's north, which fell under the control of Tuareg separatists and then al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists following a 2012 coup. A French-led intervention last year scattered the jihadists, but attacks on the U.N. force have increased lately.
In the wake of the attack, U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous is traveling to Mali to reiterate his support for the importance of the mission and the critical importance of the political process at this time. Peace talks between the Malian government and the Tuaregs have begun.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, in a statement released Friday night, condemned "the latest in a series of brazen attacks" on U.N. peacekeepers serving in Mali.