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BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Al-Qaida extremists have claimed responsibility for an attack in northern Mali that killed a U.N. peacekeeper and wounded seven French soldiers.

SITE Intelligence Group reported Friday that the al-Qaida branch in Mali posted a message saying it had carried out the attack nearly a week ago.

The message called it retaliation for a series of recent military operations that had killed some of the branch’s fighters.

Witnesses said the attackers struck the town of Timbuktu in vehicles disguised as belonging to the Malian military and the U.N. peacekeeping mission.

Extremists controlled Timbuktu and other northern towns in 2012 before a French-led military operation forced them from power the following year. They have continued to attack Malian and international forces.