2 Malian soldiers, 2 UN peacekeepers die in latest attacks

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — A United Nations peacekeeping convoy hit a roadside bomb in central Mali, killing two peacekeepers and wounding four others, the mission said Monday, while another attack on the Malian military left two dead.

The new violence comes just days after at least 27 soldiers were killed in an attack on a military camp in Mondoro in central Mali.

The U.N. logistical convoy was headed to the northern town of Timbuktu when it hit an improvised explosive device north of Mopti. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said all the peacekeepers who were killed and injured were from Egypt.

The United Nations condemns the attack, calls on Malian authorities “to spare no effort to identify the perpetrators,” and reiterates that targeting U.N. peacekeepers may constitute war crimes, Dujarric said.

Mali’s military said the attack that killed two of its soldiers on Monday also wounded two others in Gao region in the north.

The spike in violence comes as the French military has begun withdrawing troops from Mali after more than nine years aiding the fight against Islamic extremism in its former colony. Many fear that the jihadis could now regain territory as France continues pulling out its soldiers over the next five months.

France first intervened in 2013, leading a military operation to force Islamic extremists from power in towns across northern Mali. But in the years since, those militants have carried out scores of attacks against the Malian military and U.N. peacekeepers, and have extended their reach into the center of the country.

Observers fear Mali’s security situation also could deteriorate because of political upheaval: Col. Assimi Goita staged two coups in 18 months’ time. He has postponed a new presidential election until 2026, leading to mounting tensions with international partners including France.