An al-Qaida-linked extremist group is claiming responsibility for Wednesday’s suicide attack on a military camp in northern Mali, killing at least 60 soldiers and former rebels and wounding 115.
A car packed with explosives penetrated the camp in Gao as hundreds of solders gathered for a morning meeting.
They belong to the Joint Operational Mechanism, which brings together government forces and former Taureg rebels who form patrols to enforce the 2015 Malian peace agreement.
Three days of mourning
Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop called the bombing “criminal, cowardly and barbaric.”
“This attack should not distract us from our will to move forward to promote peace and to act against those who are trying to sabotage the peace process,” Diop said during a scheduled meeting on Mali at the United Nations Security Council.
He said Mali will observe three days of mourning for the victims and vowed that those who carried out the bombing will be found and punished.
U.S. ‘strongly condemns’ bombing
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous appealed to all sides to do what they can to preserve the peace deal in Mali, warning that “if the security situation continues to deteriorate, then soon there won’t be any peace to keep in Mali.”
The U.S. also says it “strongly condemns the cowardly attack” in Mali. State Department spokesman John Kirby said “we also denounce in the strongest terms all efforts to derail implementation of the peace agreement.”
A very shaky peace
Taureg separatists took advantage of a 2012 military coup in Mali to briefly seize control of the north before al-Qaida-linked militants drove them out.
A French force took back the region from the Islamists. Thousands of U.N. peacekeepers and Malian soldiers are overseeing a very shaky peace agreement between the Malian government and the Tauregs.
Human Rights Watch says Islamists killed 29 U.N. peacekeepers last year and still threaten to impose strict Sharia law in northern and central Mali.
Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.