UN hit by another deadly attack in Mali, vows to boost defenses

Agence France-Presse

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'This is no longer in the context of maintaining peace,' says Herve Ladsous, the UN's head of peacekeeping operations, as he announces deployments of drones and armored vehicles
The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) holds a memorial ceremony 7 Oct 2014 for 9 Nigerien peacekeepers of the Mission who were killed in a targeted ambush against a MINUSMA convoy on the road between Ansongo and Menaka, Mali, on 3 October 2014. Bamako, Mali / Marco Dormino/UN Photo

BAMAKO, Mali – A Senegalese peacekeeper was killed Tuesday, October 7, as a UN camp in northern Mali came under rocket fire in an attack blamed on a jihadist leader driven from the country by French troops.

The strike came just as the UN vowed to bolster defenses for its troops in Mali after suffering its deadliest attack on Friday, October 3 – an ambush by Al-Qaeda-linked militants that claimed nine peacekeepers’ lives.

“This is no longer in the context of maintaining peace,” said Herve Ladsous, the UN’s head of peacekeeping operations, as he announced deployments of drones and armored vehicles.

“We are required to take a series of measures … to toughen up our bases, and boost our protection,” he said at a press conference after a attending the nine peacekeepers’ funeral in Mali’s capital Bamako.

As he spoke, the UN mission came under a fresh attack, this time blamed on Iyad Ag Ghaly, who led a Tuareg rebellion in the Sahara before setting up the armed group Ansar Dine.

The jihadist had disappeared in January 2013 soon after France intervened to drive Islamist insurgents back from Bamako but resurfaced last month to issue a video message signaling his return to combat.

He said his group was “ready to unite with our brothers on the ground to face up to the crusaders and infidels who have united to fight Islam in our land”.

“The Malian Islamist Iyad Ag Ghaly has carried out his threat by attacking the camp of the UN mission in Kidal,” a source from the UN’s MINUSMA force in Mali told Agence France-Presse.

The source said at least five rockets were fired and added that the “provisional death toll” was one peacekeeper, giving his nationality as Senegalese.

A resident of Kidal contacted by Agence France-Presse by telephone confirmed the information.

“The camp was attacked, we heard loud noises. It’s rockets. It’s dark here now and we don’t know what is happening,” he said.

In New York, the UN Security Council condemned the attack and called on Bamako to launch an investigation and “bring the perpetrators to justice”.

‘Shameful acts’

In a 23-minute video in Arabic put online in August, Ghaly accused the French and their Malian army allies of a litany of atrocities against the people of northern Mali that “brings shivers to the spine”.

Flanked by a black jihadist flag and a Kalashnikov rifle, his long monologue was interspersed with images of French interests in Africa.

Islamist groups Ansar Dine, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and MUJAO occupied the desert north – a vast chunk of land which makes up nearly 2/3 of Mali – for 10 months before they were ousted by a French-led military intervention in January 2013.

Though order has largely been restored across the territory, the Islamists continue to carry out raids and attacks and French troops are still on patrol.

Friday’s ambush, which targeted UN troops from Niger, brought to 30 the number of deaths in the UN mission since its deployment in July last year.

Ladsous vowed to hunt down the killers of the 9 Nigerien soldiers.

“So that those responsible are fully aware, they will be punished, they will be prosecuted, they will pay for these shameful acts,” Ladsous said at the soldiers’ funeral.

Coffins of the soldiers were draped with a UN flag at the service at the headquarters of MINUSMA, and they were posthumously decorated.

“I want to tell you how we experienced, even in New York, the intensity of this tragedy, a tragedy that comes after many others,” said Ladsous.

The Malian government is in negotiations with 6 armed groups to bring peace to northern Mali.

Ladsous urged all parties to honor a ceasefire agreed as part of the talks. – Rappler.com

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