AP

3 UN peacekeepers killed, 5 wounded by roadside bomb in Mali

Feb 20, 2023, 8:08 PM | Updated: Feb 21, 2023, 6:18 pm

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Three United Nations peacekeepers were killed and five others wounded by a roadside bomb in central Mali on Tuesday, according to the U.N.

The bomb struck a supply convoy near the village of Songobia, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali known as MINUSMA said in a statement.

The U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the attack in separate statements that also said attacks against U.N. peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law.

Council members called on Mali’s transitional government to swiftly investigate the attack with the support of MINUSMA and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The council expressed concern about the security situation in Mali and the transnational dimension of the terrorist threat in the Sahel region. It underlined that peace in the region won’t be achieved without a combination of political, security, peacebuilding and development efforts that benefit all regions of Mali as well as implementation of the 2015 peace agreement.

Earlier, El-Ghassim Wane, the head of MINUSMA, said: “I strongly condemn this attack and present my heartfelt condolences to the families and brothers in arms of the late blue helmets.”

The incident illustrates the complex environment in which the peacekeepers are working, he said.

Jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group has wracked Mali for a decade and left thousands of people dead. The war-torn West African country is one of the world’s most dangerous places with a peacekeeping mission.

For the ninth consecutive year, Mali had the most peacekeepers killed while deployed there, the U.N. reported in January. Including the peacekeepers from Tuesday, 168 have been killed in the country since 2013, according to the U.N.

Since Mali’s military seized power in two coups starting in 2020, a junta led by Col. Assimi Goita has had tense relations with the international community and constrained the mission’s ability to operate.

Countries such as Benin, Germany, Sweden, Ivory Coast and the United Kingdom have announced troop withdrawals, according to the International Crisis Group.

An internal review of the mission in January said restrictions imposed by the junta have exposed personnel to security risks. The loss of participating countries will put the mission under additional pressure, as it will lose more than 2,250 troops, the report said.

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Associated Press reporter Sam Mednick contributed from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

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