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World

Fourth Ivorian peacekeeper dies in Mali attack: UN

  • Thousands of Malian soldiers and civilians have died and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.
14 Jan 2021

BAMAKO: A UN soldier among peacekeepers who were attacked in Mali on Wednesday has died from his wounds, bring the death toll to four, the United Nations said Thursday.

A detachment of Ivorian peacekeepers was travelling between Douentza and Timbuktu in the northwest when it hit one or more roadside bombs before coming under fire, its MINUSMA peacekeeping mission said.

Three were killed, and "a fourth Blue Helmet has sadly died of his wounds," MINUSMA spokesman Olivier Salgado said on social media.

Several other peacekeepers were injured.

The attack occurred north of Bambara Maoude, an area where the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM, also known by its Arabic acronym JNIM), a jihadist group created in 2017 and affiliated to Al-Qaeda, is notoriously active.

Ivory Coast's armed forces chief Lassina Doumbia said attack helicopters were brought in to sweep the area and medical aircraft to evacuate the wounded.

The attack is the latest in a brutal conflict that has been raging in Mali since 2012, when jihadists overtook a rebellion by mostly ethnic Tuareg separatists in the north.

Thousands of Malian soldiers and civilians have died and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

After spreading to central Mali, the campaign advanced into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, inflaming ethnic tensions along the way.

Laying roadside bombs, called improvised explosive devices (IEDs), is a favourite tactic.

France, which has 5,100 troops deployed across the Sahel, has lost five soldiers since late December in IED attacks claimed by the GSIM.

First established in 2013, the 13,000-strong MINUSMA has suffered the highest fatalities of any peacekeeping mission in the world. Over 230 of its personnel have died since the mission began, 130 of them in hostile acts.

MINUSMA head Mahamat Saleh Annadif condemned Wednesday's attack, noting that it came "when all efforts are being mobilised to get Mali out of its rut."

The UN Security Council held a meeting on Tuesday that was devoted to Mali's long-running crisis.

In his latest report, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern about the deteriorating security environment, pointing to the situation in central Mali as particularly worrying.

Mali's interim government is also under pressure.

Anger about lack of progress against the jihadists and perceived corruption contributed to protests against president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, which culminated in his military ouster last August.