A roadside bomb killed two UN peacekeepers in central Mali on Monday as the Malian army reported a deadly clash with jihadist insurgents and France said it had killed a rebel leader.
Original article by AFP/yahoo news
“This morning, a supply convoy… struck an improvised explosive device north of Mopti,” the spokesman for the UN’s MINUSMA force, Olivier Salgado, said on Twitter.
Four other peacekeepers were wounded, he said.
The mission’s chief, El-Ghassim Wane, vigorously condemned the attack and called on the Malian authorities “to spare no effort” in identifying those behind it.
The incident comes as the United Nations is assessing the impact on MINUSMA from France’s decision to withdraw from Mali following a rift with its ruling junta.
The 13,000-member mission is one of the UN’s biggest and most dangerous peacekeeping operations. A total of 171 of its troops have died from hostile acts, it says.
MINUSMA’s deployment was launched in 2013 to help shore up the fragile Sahel state in the face of jihadist attacks.
– Troubled country –
Born in the north of the country, the insurgency spread two years later to the volatile centre and then to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
In Mali alone, thousands have died and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.
Separately, the Malian army said its troops had repelled an attack on Monday by “terrorist groups” at Gao in the north of the country.
In a tweet, the Malian Armed Forces (FAMA) said nine jihadists had been killed for the loss of two of its soldiers, in fighting that was ongoing.
France, meanwhile, said its anti-jihadist force in Mali had killed Yahia Djouadi, a “senior leader” of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) responsible for finance and logistics.
Djouadi, an Algerian also known as Abu Ammar al-Jazairi, was killed overnight from February 25 to 26 around 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Timbuktu, the French army said in a statement.
He was killed by ground forces supported by a Tiger attack helicopter and two drones, it said.
– MINUSMA future –
Diplomats in New York last month said the future of MINUSMA, whose annual mandate comes up for renewal in June, may be compromised by recent developments in Mali.
The military junta that seized power in Mali in August 2020 has embraced a partnership with Russia and fallen out with France, the country’s traditional ally.
As a result, France is pulling its forces out of the country as part of a major reconfiguration of its anti-jihadist operations in the Sahel.
French forces have helped underpin MINUSMA’s operations with air and medical support.
Sweden last week announced that it would withdraw its 220 soldiers from Mali in 2023, a year earlier than usual.
Earlier Monday, Denmark said that it would “delay” sending a C130 Hercules transport aircraft that had been scheduled to join MINUSMA on a deployment running from May to November.
Instead, the plane will be retained in Denmark “so that it can be ready to respond to any request from NATO” in the light of the Ukraine crisis, Defence Minister Morten Bodskov told a press conference.
Denmark has contributed to MINUSMA — the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali — since 2014, committing a transporter to its operations three times, most recently in 2019.
France is preparing to redeploy some 2,400 troops away from Mali to other jihadist-hit countries in the Sahel.
The pullout is set to last six months, but during that time, “operations continue against armed terrorist groups, especially against the top leaders of Al-Qaeda, GSIM and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) group,” the army’s statement in Paris said.