U.N. peacekeepers killed in Mali

(CNN) -- In fresh evidence the threat of violence in Mali -- and, specifically, attacks directed at international forces -- hasn't gone away, two U.N. peacekeepers died and nine others were hurt in a suicide attack Saturday, the U.N. mission there said.

The U.N. mission in the West African nation is there to guard against militant Islamists, which have been in the country for years and recently threatened to move on the capital, Bamako.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, the recent spate of attacks suggests such a threat is still very real -- especially when one considers that Saturday's attack is the third against U.N. personnel in the past week.

A motorist Saturday targeted a U.N. patrol base in Ber, a village in northern Mali not far from Timbuktu.

Two U.N. peacekeepers were seriously wounded when their vehicle struck a mine on Thursday, and another peacekeeper was hurt in a separate mine incident, MINUSMA said.

"Such violence is senseless, the MINUSMA pays too much of a toll in Mali," David Gressly, deputy special representative of the secretary-general, said in a statement. "These attacks reinforce our determination to continue our mission alongside the Malian people."

Islamist extremists carved out a large haven in northern Mali in 2012, taking advantage of a chaotic situation after a military coup by the separatist party MNLA.

These forces -- including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb -- began advancing toward Bamako in early 2013.

Their initial success prompted international military intervention that included forces from Chad and France, which was Mali's former colonial ruler.

With fighting on the ground and airstrikes from above, these allied forces managed to significantly stymy the Islamist extremist fighters.