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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif unexpectedly flies back to G7 to break diplomatic deadlock

Mali UN forces attacked ahead of Security Council debate on Sahel force

media Minusma troops in Gao, northern Mali Minusma/Harandane Dicko

Gunmen killed nine people in two separate attacks in Mali on Monday, the day before the UN Security Council was due to discuss an all-African security force in the Sahel region.

A Togolose UN peacekeeper and a Malian soldier were killed in an early morning attack in Douentza, in the central region of Mopti, according to a statement by the UN mission in Mali, Minusma.

Another UN soldier was lightly wounded and two attackers were killed.

Later in the day six men armed with Kalashnikovs and grenades killed five Malian UN security guards, a police officer and a civilian contractor in the northern city of Timbuktu, according to a separate statement.

The contractor's nationality was not given.

Six jihadists were killed in Timbuktu.

Reinforcements were deployed to both bases and in Timbuktu on Monday evening.

Security Council to discuss G5 force

The UN Security Council urged Mali to investigate who was responsible and bring them to justice.

The Mali mission has been the UN's most costly in terms of lives.

France on Tuesday strongly condemned the attacks, which came the day after an assault in Ouagadougou that cost 18 lives.

Minusma is working alongside France's Barkhane force, which is a continuation of the French military intervention against armed Islamists and Tuareg rebels who took over the north of Mali in 2012.The Tuaregs have reached a peace deal with the government but the Islamist insurgency continues, as does jihadi violence throughout the Sahel region.

The Security Council was due to discuss security in Africa on Tuesday and one of the main subjects for debate was a proposed five-nation security force in the Sahel.

France is pushing for five countries - Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger - to form a 5,000-strong joint "G5" force to combat jihadism.

But it has so far proved impossible to find the estimated 400 million euros required to make it operational.

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