UN urges probe as mines kill peacekeepers in Mali

Bamako, Mali | AFP | Friday 1/26/2019 – Two peacekeepers from Sri Lanka died and six were wounded in central Mali Friday when their vehicle hit a mine, the UN said, urging a swift investigation to “bring the perpetrators to justice.”

UN chief António Guterres strongly condemned the latest attack and a separate strike with an improvised explosive device Thursday that killed another peacekeeper from Burkina Faso.

“The Secretary-General recalls that attacks targeting UN peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law,” his office said in a statement issued in New York.

The UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) earlier said a logistics vehicle hit a mine near Douentza in the Mopti region, killing two blue helmets and severely wounding several others, who have since been evacuated for treatment.

The 14,000 strong UN military and police mission has been deployed in Mali since 2013 to help counter jihadist activity.

The casualties come after jihadist gunmen killed 10 Chadian peacekeepers and injured at least 25 others in an attack on a UN camp in Aguelhok, northern Mali, on Sunday.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for that attack – one of the deadliest strikes against the UN mission in the West African country.

The UN Security Council in a statement urged the Malian government “to swiftly investigate the attack and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

It added that “involvement in planning, directing, sponsoring or conducting attacks against MINUSMA peacekeepers constitutes a basis for sanctions designations pursuant to UN Security Council resolutions.”

Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries, has struggled to return to stability since extremists linked to al-Qaeda took control of the north in 2012, prompting French military intervention.

The jihadists were routed from key desert towns such as Timbuktu and Gao but large stretches of the landlocked Sahel state remain out of government control.

A peace deal between the government and armed groups was signed in 2015 but implementation has been slow, and attacks have continued in the centre and north.

In his last quarterly report on Mali, Guterres highlighted a rise in improvised explosive device attacks.

“The number of attacks of this type has increased steadily since January 2018, reaching 192, while there had been only 124 during the same period in 2017,” according to the report.