Mali: Explosion at military camp kills dozens

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EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / The dead and injured are evacuated following a suicide bomb attack that ripped through a camp grouping former rebels and pro-government militia in Gao, in the troubled northern Mali left 50 people dead on January 18, 2017 in Gao. Malian president's office ordered three days of national mourning following the attack, the worst in the country in recent years. / AFP / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

A suicide vehicle bombing Wednesday ripped a Mali military camp shared by government forces and other armed groups cooperating on a peace deal, killing dozens of people, the United Nations’ mission in the West African nation said.

France, the former colonial power in the area, believes more than 50 people were killed in the morning attack on the camp in the city of Gao, said Francois Delattre, France’s ambassador to the United Nations.

No claim of responsibility was immediately made. The camp hosts the Malian military and two armed groups — one involving former rebels, the other comprising pro-government militia — that signed a peace deal with the government after a 2012 uprising in the north.

The forces are expected to take part in mixed patrols as part of the deal.

“I believe this attack is clearly an unacceptable attempt against the ongoing efforts in Mali to stabilize the country and a direct effort to undermine the peace agreement,” Delattre said.

Mali has struggled with instability and Islamist extremists for years.

An uprising by rebels from the Tuareg ethnic minority began in the country’s sparsely populated north in January 2012, followed by a military coup two months later. During the chaos that followed, Islamist extremists who had helped the Tuareg against Malian forces took over a large portion of northern Mali for themselves.

At Mali’s request, France sent thousands of troops after the coup to help push out the militants. The United Nations also established a peacekeeping mission to secure the government enough to continue a peace process.

French troops helped push the militants out of urban areas, but the militants persisted in the nation’s desert regions.

An Algerian-brokered peace deal, which allowed for greater autonomy in the country’s north, was signed in June 2015 by the so-called Coordination of Movements of Azawad, representing the Tuareg-led rebels.