Mali Requests Additional UN TroopsOctober 9, 2014 in Mali
In the wake of a recent upsurge in attacks against United Nations peacekeepers operating in northern Mali, the country’s government has requested that the UN deploy a rapid intervention force aimed at fighting the Islamist militants. The request comes after two separate attacks killed nearly a dozen UN peacekeepers in the past week.
On Wednesday, Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulay Diop disclosed in front of the UN Security Council that urgent measures were now needed following the recent killings of UN peacekeepers. He warned that the region once again ran “the risk of becoming the destination of hordes of terrorists,” noting that “urgent measures” were needed to bolster the UN mission, which must have “appropriate means to fulfil its mandate.” The UN’s peacekeeping chief agreed that Malian forces have been unable to fill the gap left by the departure of French troops.
The appeal for more robust action in the northern Malian region comes amidst some of the deadliest violence that has targeted a UN peacekeeping mission in recent years. On Tuesday, a Senegalese soldier was killed just days after nine peacekeepers from Niger were killed by Islamist militants.
According to UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, in all, thirty-one peacekeepers have been killed and 91 injured since the mission, known as MINUSMA, was established in July 2014. According to the chief, UN soldiers operating in the region are now facing “a whole range of threats: rockets fired randomly, mortar shells, suicide attacks, ambushes.” While Malian officials have not disclosed what force they are envisioning the UN will deploy, Mr Ladsous did reveal that in the coming months, the UN mission will be sent combat helicopters and drones.
Some nineteen months after being driven out of northern Mali by a French-led military intervention, a number of Islamist groups have increased their campaign of violence, carrying out roadside bombs, rocket attacks and ambushes on UN peacekeepers operating in the region. The militants have also begun to target civilians. In September, an ethnic Tuareg civilian, along with four members of his family, was kidnapped near Timbuktu. Reports later surfaced that militants beheaded the man, with relatives indicating that he was killed by members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), who had suspected him of being an informant for international forces in Mali.
While three jihadist groups, AQIM, Ansar Dine and Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) controlled northern Mali for ten months in 2012, before being largely ousted by the French and African troops in January 2013, small pockets of armed militants remain active and continue to carry out deadly attacks in the desert region.