BAMAKO, Mali — Nine U.N. peacekeepers were killed in an ambush in northern Mali on Friday, the United Nations said, in the deadliest attack on the force since it was deployed.
The convoy of peacekeepers from Niger was targeted while it was traveling in the northern region of Gao, according Deputy U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq and a statement from the force. Other troops were wounded in the attack.
The peacekeeping force, which is tasked with bringing stability to the troubled West African country, said air support was immediately deployed to secure the area where the attack took place 15 kilometers (9 miles) east of Indelimane.
Men with heavy arms on motorbikes attacked the convoy, said Olivier Salgado, a spokesman for the force, known as MINUSMA.
"This is the deadliest attack that MINUSMA has suffered since the beginning of the mission," he said. "The toll is rather serious."
Last month, a roadside bomb killed five peacekeepers and wounded several other Chadian troops near the embattled city of Kidal. Mines killed five other peacekeepers last month.
Northern Mali fell under control of Tuareg separatists and then al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. A French-led intervention last year scattered the extremists, but some remain active and there have been continued bursts of violence.
U.N. troops are now trying to stabilize the north, and peace talks have begun between the Malian government and Tuaregs.
Lederer reported from United Nations.