Reuters International

DAKAR (Reuters) - Five United Nations peacekeepers from Chad were killed and three were wounded in northern Mali on Wednesday when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device and unknown gunmen opened fire, the United Nations said in a statement late on Wednesday.

Northern Mali is home to a separatist movement as well as to Islamist militants who have staged a series of high profile attacks in the past year both in Mali and in neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso.

A peace accord signed last year was meant to bring stability to the arid region, but attacks against the U.N. mission, Malian military and civilians are still frequent.

The U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established in April 2013 with a mandate that includes supporting the political process, monitoring human rights and protecting the civilian population.

The U.N. said on Wednesday that 12 peacekeepers had been killed since the start of the year in dozens of attacks against the force in the Kidal region, where Wednesday's assault took place.

However, the U.N. would continue to support the implementation of the peace agreement in Mali, it said in the statement.

(Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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