The UN secretary-general says two United Nations peacekeepers have been killed and seven wounded in a suicide attack in Mali.

Ban Ki-moon said he was saddened by the deaths and condemned the attack against UN personnel in a statement issued Saturday.

The UN mission in Mali had earlier reported one peacekeeper dead and five injured.

The mission said the suicide attack took place in Ber in the region of Timbuktu. It marks the third time this week that UN peacekeepers have been targeted in northern Mali.

David Gressly, the UN Secretary-General's deputy special representative in Mali, condemned the attack, saying the violence only reinforces the peacekeeping mission's determination.

Three other peacekeepers have been wounded over the past week by mine explosions in northern Mali.

German United Nations

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, seen in a file photo, condemned the attack in an statement issued on Saturday. (Michael Sohn/Associated Press)

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously in June to authorize the UN peacekeeping force in Mali to expand its protection of civilians in the volatile north from cities to rural areas and give priority to launching political negotiations and promoting national reconciliation.

The resolution adopted by the council underscored the need to address the underlying causes of recurrent crises in Mali and start peace talks between the government and all communities in the north.

Northern Mali fell under control of ethnic Tuareg separatists, and then al-Qaeda-linked Islamic extremists, following a military coup in 2012.

A French-led intervention last year scattered the extremists, but the Tuaregs have pushed back against the authority of Mali’s new government, based in Bamako, the country's capital.