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Islamist terror group claims Mali attack

The group said the suicide bomb attack was punishment for groups there cooperating with France.

Soldiers gather at a pickup truck following a suicide bomb attack in Mali. Picture: AFP.

PRETORIA - An Islamist terror group who kidnapped two Canadian diplomats a decade ago has claimed responsibility for a massive bombing that killed at least 60 people in Mali.

The group, Al Mourabitoun, is led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, al-Qaeda's North African affiliate.

The group said the suicide bomb attack was punishment for groups there cooperating with France.

France intervened in Mali in 2013 to drive back Islamist groups that seized the desert north a year earlier and maintains a regional operation aimed at stamping out insurgents.

The attack highlights the fragility of a peace agreement in northern Mali.

At least 600 Canadian troops are about to join the UN mission there which is acknowledged to be the most dangerous in the world.

More than 100 peacekeepers have been killed since 2013.

A new report this week by Human Rights Watch has warned of the growing power of Islamist armed groups in northern and central Mali.

The groups, including Belmokhtar’s militia, have executed at least 27 people in the past year.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)