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BAMAKO (Reuters) - Forces from France's Operation Barkhane have arrested three people in connection with a suicide bombing in northern Mali that killed at least 77 people, Mali's Security Minister Salif Traore said on Thursday.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said five of its fighters conducted the attack on Jan. 18 on a military camp in the town of Gao that also wounded more than 100 people.

The raid showed the difficulty faced by the government and U.N. peacekeepers in combating militant Islamist groups based in the desert north of the country.

Traore gave no further details of the arrests.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, has 13,000 staff from 123 nations in Mali. France maintains a 4,000-strong parallel peacekeeping operation, "Barkhane". The European Union has 580 instructors training the Malian army.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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