Three UN peacekeepers die in Mali explosion


Three United Nations peacekeepers have been killed and five others seriously injured on Tuesday when their convoy struck a roadside bomb in central Mali, the UN mission said.

“A MINUSMA Force convoy hit an Improvised Explosive Device #IED today,” it said in a tweet that gave a preliminary toll.

The mission gave no immediate word about the casualties’ nationalities.

An impoverished state lying in the heart of West Africa’s Sahel, Mali is struggling with an 11-year-old jihadist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes

MINUSMA, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, was created in 2013.

With more than 13,500 military personnel and police, it is one of the biggest but also deadliest UN peacekeeping missions, suffering a high toll, especially to IEDs.

In January, UN chief Antonio Guterres said in a report that 165 peacekeepers had died and 687 were wounded in hostile acts since July 2013.

The force recorded 548 IED attacks up to the date of the report, claiming 103 lives and 638 wounded among MINUSMA personnel.

Anger within the Malian military at the government’s failure to roll back the insurgency led to a coup against the elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, in August 2020.

The junta wove closer ties with the Kremlin, bringing in Russian paramilitaries and equipment, as relations with France, the country’s traditional ally, spiralled downwards.

France in 2022 withdrew its last troops from Mali deployed under its long-running Barkhane anti-jihadist force in the Sahel.

The junta in Bamako routinely claims that it is gaining the upper hand against the jihadists since it has pivoted to Russia.

On Monday, it protested after the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, last week said that the Malian state was “collapsing” and that the jihadists were gaining ground.

Michel’s comments “omit the tangible progress achieved by Malian forces on the ground,” the foreign ministry said.

The insurgency began alongside a revolt by ethnic Tuaregs in the north of the country in 2012.

France sent troops to beat back the rebellion, but the jihadists regrouped and expanded into the centre of the country in 2015.

From there, they carried out bloody incursions into neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

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