UN peacekeeping chief vows justice for slain troops

The United Nations' chief peacekeeper vowed Tuesday to hunt down the killers of nine soldiers in the deadliest ever attack on its mission in Mali.

The soldiers, all from Niger, were on a supply run in the north-eastern desert on Friday when they were targeted by armed men on motorbikes.

"So that those responsible are fully aware, they will be punished, they will be prosecuted, they will pay for these shameful acts," Herve Ladsous said at the soldiers' funeral in the Malian capital Bamako.

Coffins of the soldiers were draped with a UN flag at the service at the headquarters of MINUSMA, the UN mission in Mali, and they were posthumously decorated.

"I want to tell you how we experienced, even in New York, the intensity of this tragedy, a tragedy that comes after many others," said Ladsous.

"No less than 30 peacekeepers have sacrificed their lives since the start of MINUSMA."

The Malian government is in negotiations with six armed groups to bring peace to the northern two-thirds of Mali, a desert region the size of France which has been riven by violent conflict for decades.

Ladsous urged all parties to honour a ceasefire agreed as part of the talks.

Friday's attack has been claimed by a Malian jihadist close to the al-Qaeda-linked Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa.

MINUSMA took over security duties from African troops in Mali in July last year, with a mission to ensure stability in the conflict-scarred nation.

A 12,600-strong force, made up largely of Africans, replaced the AFISMA military mission, which has been supporting the French intervention.

The mission played a key role in presidential polls which saw Ibrahim Boubacar Keita rise to power in August 2013.