DAKAR - Dutch United Nations attack helicopters carried out air strikes on Tuareg rebel forces in northern Mali on Tuesday, the first such engagement by Dutch forces serving in the UN mission in Mali.
The UN mission, known as MINUSMA, said it was responding to heavy weapons fire directed at its peacekeepers in the town of Tabankort. It said the helicopters only destroyed a rebel vehicle after firing warning shots that were ignored.
A spokesman for the MNLA Tuareg separatist rebels, who are involved in peace talks with the Malian government in Algeria, denied warning shots had been fired and said five fighters had been killed and several others wounded.
UN peacekeepers have deployed across northern Mali to help the weak Bamako government secure desert zones that were occupied by a mix of rebels and al Qaeda-linked Islamists in 2012 until a French military intervention two years ago.