Three United Nations peacekeepers from Ivory Coast have been killed in central Mali on Wednesday, the UN has said, in the latest violence to hit the Sahel state.
According to a statement from the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission, the United Nations peacekeepers hit a roadside bomb while travelling the road linking the central town of Douentza to the city of Timbuktu further north.
Gunmen opened fire on the convoy killing three soldiers and six more were wounded, the statement added.
“The robust response of the peacekeepers drove the cowardly assailants to flee,” the MINUSMA statement said.
Earlier on Wednesday, a UN spokesman in New York said in a statement that one peacekeeper was killed and seven wounded.
The attack on the United Nations peacekeepers is the latest in a brutal conflict which has been raging in Mali since 2012 when terrorists overtook a rebellion by mostly ethnic Tuareg separatists in the country’s north.
The conflict in Northern mail, which has killed thousands of soldiers and civilians to date, has since spread to central Mali as well as neighbouring countries like Burkina Faso and Niger, sparking ethnic tensions along the way.
The use roadside bombs — or improvised explosive devices (IED) — is a common tactic used by the militants in the arid Sahel region.
France has lost five soldiers to IED attacks in the area, since late December. France has 5,100 troops deployed across Sahel.
MINUSMA is the deadliest peacekeeping mission in the world. First established in 2013, the mission is about 13,000 soldiers strong. More than 230 of its personnel have died since the mission began.
MINUSMA head Mahamat Saleh Annadif condemned the attack on UN peacekeepers on Wednesday, saying he “bowed with deep sadness before the memory of the peacekeepers”.
“At a time when all efforts are being mobilised to get Mali out of its rut, I deeply deplore the resurgence of these attacks against national and international forces, as well as the civilian population,” he added.
This recent attack on United Nations peacekeepers occurred a day after a UN Security Council Meeting devoted to peace efforts in Mali.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his latest report, expressed concern about the deteriorating security crisis, pointing to the situation in central Mali as particularly worrying.
The newly formed interim government in Mali is also under pressure to quell the seemingly endless conflict.
Anger expressed by Malians about the lack of progress against the insurgents and perceived corruption were part reasons behind the protests against president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, which eventually led to the military coup that removed him from power in August last year.
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