At least six United Nations peacekeepers were killed in an ambush in northern Mali Thursday in an attack claimed by an affiliate of al-Qaeda.
Five soldiers were severely wounded in the attack between Goundam and Timbuktu, Radhia Achouri, spokeswoman for the UN Mission in Mali, said by phone. Timbuktu is 706 kilometers northwest (439 miles) of the capital, Bamako.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said it killed 7 soldiers from Burkina Faso on Thursday, Mauritanian news agency al-Akhbar reported, citing a spokesman for the group. Forty-three peacekeepers have been killed in Mali since the start of the mission, Achouri said.
Militants linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have pledged to continue attacking countries in north and west Africa that are helping France in the effort against them. France sent soldiers to Mali in 2013 to push back al-Qaeda loyalists who were roaming freely in northern Mali.
France has widened its role in the Sahel against militant Islamists, sending 3,000 troops to help Mali, Chad and Niger fight militants. The Sahel is a semi-arid area below the Sahara that runs from Senegal in the west to Sudan in the east.