A mission by the United Nations turned deadly for five peacekeepers after an extremist attack took place in central Mali. In a release by ABC News, Radhia Achouri, a spokesperson for the UN’s mission, media outlets were alerted that one more peacekeeper suffered injuries during Sunday’s events and was being evacuated. The ambush-style attack occurred at 11 a.m. while the convoy was en route to Tenenkou, which is about 19 miles west of Sevare.
The peacekeepers, whose nationalities are unknown at this time, were part of the United Nation’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). For three years, MINUSMA and other French forces have planted roots in northern Mali to help maintain order after separatists joined jihadists efforts to take the territory from the Bamako government.
Last year, parties signed a peace accord. The step was taken to offer the area some relief after unrest, but extremists are still frequently targeting UN peacekeepers, Malian soldiers, and innocent civilians. In May alone, multiple attacks have taken place. On May 19, five MINUSMA peacekeepers from Chad were murdered while in Kidal’s northern region. Five more peacekeepers were injured on May 22 while traveling in central Mali. The convoy hit a small explosive device and was subsequently attacked by five armed men. The peacekeepers were reportedly headed to Sevare from Dioura, according to a report from Reuters. Two days ago near Gao, five Malian soldiers were attacked and killed. While the attacks are primarily in the northern region of the country, militants have also been active in the neighboring territories of Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
After a similar attack ten days ago, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon requested “swift action” to punish the perpetrators of the criminal attacks and bring justice to the area. Ban went on to state that the murders of UN peacekeepers are war crimes under international law.
UN Chief Condemns Killing of Five Peacekeepers in Mali: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned an attack … https://t.co/ldU4et6Wxr
— Amanda Alverez (@AlverezAmanda) May 30, 2016
More Killings on the International Day of Peacekeepers
Today’s attacks were ironically held on the International Day of Peacekeepers, a day of honor established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2003. The day is meant as a time to pay homage to the soldiers for their professionalism, dedication and courage while serving in UN peacekeeping operations, and to pay tribute to the memory of those who have lost their lives in the fight for peace. But, extremists chose to ignore the intentions of the day.
Mahamat Saleh Annadif, a Special Representative for the United Nations Secretary-General Ban and leader of MINUSMA, was disheartened by the string of crimes and urged retribution after attackers have been identified.
“I condemn in the strongest terms this despicable crime in addition to other terrorist acts that targeted our peacekeepers, which constitute crimes against humanity under international law. This heinous act of terrorism is even more shocking (as) it was perpetrated there during International Day of Peacekeepers.”
Although Mali has been working to restore democracy to its citizens with assistance from the United Nations and other African regional bodies like the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), terrorist actions have severely impacted the efforts for progress since 2014. The area is part of the Mopti region and known to host members of the Macina Liberation Front, a group with strong ties to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
UN peacekeepers killed in Mali. https://t.co/WMpkMF1jwG
— Colin Wight (@colwight) May 29, 2016
United Nations representatives have described Mali’s peacekeeping mission as the “most deadly operation globally,” according to a Bloomberg report. Troops have remained the target of bombings and hit-and-runs on a weekly basis. To date, over 50 peacekeepers have died since the start of the mission in 2013.
But, the mission to support the Western African region is far from over. In spite of the attacks, Annadif stresses that MINUSMA peacekeepers are more committed than ever to continue their mission to help bring peace to Mali and its inhabitants. Currently, no information regarding the suspects has been provided.