, BAMAKO, October 6- A Malian jihadist close to the al Qaeda linked militia MUJAO on Sunday claimed responsibility for an attack that killed nine UN peacekeepers in the country’s restive north.
Friday’s attack, the deadliest against the UN mission in Mali, targeted a contingent of peacekeepers from Niger.
“In the name of all the mujahedeens, we have attacked the soldiers of the Niger government which works with the enemies of Islam,” Sultan Ould Bady told AFP.
“Three groups of mujahedeens were on the ground,” said the jihadist, known for his ties to the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).
“If the enemies do not leave the territory of Islam, they will never have peace,” he said.
He had on previous occasions claimed responsibility for other attacks in northern Mali.
The UN mission in Mali said the convoy of peacekeepers was on a supply run in the north eastern Menaka Asongo corridor when they were ambushed by men on motorbikes.
MUJAO in 2012 joined forces with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Ansar Dine — another Islamist group — to take control of much of Mali’s desert north, including the three main towns of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu.
They seized power on the back of an uprising by ethnic Tuareg separatists and imposed strict Sharia law and punishments for 10 months, before being ousted from the towns and forced back into desert hideouts by a French military operation launched in January 2013.
Though order has largely been restored across the territory, Islamist extremists continue to carry out raids and attacks and French troops are still on patrol.
Friday’s ambush brought to 30 the number of deaths in the UN mission since its deployment in July last year.