4 UN Mali mission staff killed in attack
BAMAKO, Mali – A Chinese peacekeeper and 3 civilians working for the UN's Mali mission have become the latest casualties of the troubled outfit, the UN and China's foreign ministry said Wednesday, June 1.
The last month alone has seen 3 attacks on members of the mission, known as MINUSMA, fueling concern over its future with 65 killed in under 3 years.
It is the deadliest active deployment for UN peacekeepers.
Al-Qaeda's North African affiliate AQIM claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attacks, the US monitoring SITE said.
The MINUSMA camp was targeted in a mortar or rocket attack on Tuesday night, a statement from the mission said, during which "a peacekeeper was killed and and three peacekeepers seriously wounded."
A second armed attack on a UN de-mining unit killed "two security guards and an international expert", said the same statement said, without giving the nationality of the foreigner killed.
It was "the first time a Chinese UN peacekeeper has been killed in the north," an African military source told AFP, adding that among the civilians killed one was French and the two others Malian.
The three peacekeepers seriously wounded were all Chinese, the source added.
Five Togolese peacekeepers were killed in an ambush by unidentified gunmen in central Mali on May 29, and five Chadians died on May 19 when their vehicle hit a landmine and then came under fire by Islamist group Ansar Dine.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying confirmed the dead peacekeeper was from China, and killed what she called a "terrorist attack".
"This is a grave and outrageous crime, China strongly condemns it, we call for the UN and Mali to carry out a thorough investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice," she told a press conference on Wednesday in Beijing.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb meanwhile said that fighters from its "al-Murabitoun battalion engaged in a clash with 'crusader occupation forces'," referring to the UN mission in Mali, SITE said.
The jihadists called it an "epic battle" and said they were "thrashing" the enemy.
Al-Murabitoun, led by one-eyed Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has claimed responsibility for several spectacular and bloody attacks in sub-Saharan Africa.
The UN deployed helicopters to monitor the area and a rapid reaction force was patrolling Gao, MINUSMA said in its statement.
Mission chief Mahamat Saleh Annadif said he was "disgusted by these vicious, cowardly and totally unacceptable attacks," calling on the Malian government to track down the attackers and bring them to justice.
"These crimes can no longer be tolerated," he added.
Mali's former colonial ruler France also condemned the attack and said it was "at the side of the Malian authorities and MINUSMA in their efforts to fight terrorism and usher in stability in Mali."
France's Barkhane force has 3,500 soldiers deployed across five Sahel countries, including Mali.
Mali's 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. – Serge Daniel, AFP/Rappler.com