5 UN peacekeepers killed in Mali attack

Agence France-Presse
The head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali condemns the attack as an 'odious' act of terror

PEACEKEEPERS IN MALI. UN peacekeepers stand guard near the airport on February 4, 2016 in Timbuktu, central Mali. File photo by Sébastien Rieussec/AFP

BAMAKOMali – At least 5 United Nations peacekeepers were killed in an ambush in central Mali by suspected militants on Sunday, May 29, the UN and police sources said.

The attack is the first time the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, has recorded fatalities in the center of a country long beset by violence in its vast and desolate north.

“According to preliminary information, 5 peacekeepers were killed. Another was seriously hurt and is being evacuated,” MINUSMA said in a statement.

The UN did not immediately confirm the nationality of the dead soldiers but a Bamako police source indicated a group of Togolese peacekeepers “came across a mine and a terrorist attack some 50 kilometers out of Mopti.”

First reports had indicated 4 Togolese peacekeepers were killed in the mid-morning attack on a MINUSMA convoy some 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of the town of Sevare in Mopti region.

MINUSMA mission head Mahamat Saleh Annadif condemned the attack as an “odious” act of terror.

“I most strongly condemn this abject crime which adds to other terrorist acts targeting our peacekeepers and which constitute crimes against humanity under international law,” said Annadif.

Sunday’s attack came just two days after authorities reported 5 Malian soldiers killed and 4 wounded Friday when their vehicles hit a mine in the north and then came under sustained fire.

Last week also saw 5 peacekeepers from Chad killed and 3 others wounded in an ambush in the northeast by Ansar Dine jihadist fighters.

The Mali mission is the most dangerous active deployment for UN peacekeepers and it has been hit by sharp internal tensions since its launch in July 2013.

With Sunday’s attack, at least 64 MINUSMA peacekeepers have been killed while on active service, while another 4 have died in friendly fire incidents, UN figures show.

The north has seen repeated violence since it fell under the control of Tuareg-led rebels who allied with jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in 2012.

The Islamists were largely ousted by an ongoing French-led military operation launched in January 2013, but they have since carried out sporadic attacks on security forces from desert hideouts.

Rival armed factions and smuggling networks mean the region has struggled for stability since Mali gained independence from former colonial power France in 1960. – Rappler.com