MS Risk Blog

Mali Suffers String of Attacks Targeting UN Mission

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Over the past week, the United Nations mission in Mali has suffered three attacks, resulting in several deaths and growing concerns that jihadists operating in the region are once again gaining strength.

On Monday, UN officials in Mali reported that a driver was killed in an ambush on a peacekeeping supply convoy in northern Mali in what is the third deadly assault on the mission in less than a week. A statement released by the UN’s MINUSMA peacekeeping mission indicated that the civilian contractors were targeted at 11:30 AM, around 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of Gao, adding “initial reports indicate that at least one driver was killed, his truck was later set on fire.”

MINUSMA chief Mongi Hamdi has condemned the attacks, stating that the UN “…will adjust our security arrangements so that such crimes are not repeated. MINUSMA cannot tolerate this.” He has called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice and has urged the Malian military and police to increase security in the area. It was not immediately clear how the victim was killed however Monday’s attack comes just days after two drivers were shot dead as a MINUSMA supply convoy was ambushed nearby.

On Saturday, the UN reported that two drivers have been shot dead after a peacekeeping supply convoy was attacked in northern Mali. According to a statement released by MINUSMA, two assailants stopped the convoy some 15 kilometres (9 miles) from the main city of Gao and “coldly killed two drivers” in the attack which occurred late Friday. They later set the vehicles on fire. Officials have disclosed that a third person was wounded in the attack. No group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, however the incident comes just days after an attack on the UN peacekeeping base in the same region as Gao, in which three civilians were killed and sixteen people were wounded. Al-Mourabitoun has claimed responsibility for that attack.

A suicide bomber attacked a UN barracks in northern Mali on Wednesday, killing three civilians and wounding sixteen people, including several peacekeepers. According to UN officials, the militant was attempting to drive into a camp used by the UN’s MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Ansong, in the northern region of Gao, when the explosives went off. A statement released by MINUSMA disclosed, “the attack left nine injured, two seriously, among the peacekeepers from the Niger contingent. In addition, the explosion has killed at least three civilians. Seven (civilians) were also injured.” The UN mission in Mali has not disclosed whether the bomber was acting alone or if there were others in the vehicle.

In a recording released Friday, an al-Qaeda-linked group, led by Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide attack that targeted the UN mission in Mali on Wednesday. In an audio message that was sent to Mauritanian news agency Alakhbar, which frequently publishes statements attributed to extremist groups that operate in the region, Belmokhtar’s al-Murabitoun group indicated that it had carried out the attack. The group disclosed that it had targeted Nigerien nationals because their president, Mahamadou Issoufou, had taken part in the mass Paris rally over the jihadist attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in January. They further added that the attack was also an act of revenge for Niger allowing French and American troops on its soil, and described Wednesday’s attack as “the second operation to avenge insults against the Prophet,” referring to Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon depictions of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed. While the Malian government had initially reported that a civilian MINUSMA worker and a child were killed in the attack, adding that the suicide bomber was also killed and 21 people, including several peacekeepers, were wounded, al-Murabitoun has denied that any civilians were killed, arguing that this would not have been possible “given the distance between the camp and the town.”

It appears that al-Murabitoun is increasingly gaining strength and ability to carry out deadly attacks in Mali, with the militant group most recently claiming responsibility for the 7 March attack on a Bamako nightclub. Al-Murabitoun was formed in 2013 from the merger of Belmokhtar’s Signatories in Blood group and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). Belmoktar, a former al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) chief, is wanted by the security services of several countries after allegedly masterminding a siege in January 2013 of an Algerian gas plan, in which thirty-eight hostages were killed. He is also believed to have been behind twin car bombings that occurred in Niger in May of that year and which killed at least twenty people. Belmokhtar, who is thought to be based in Libya, has been designated a foreign terrorist by the United States, with the State Department offering a US $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Militants operating in northern Mali have staged a number of deadly attacks on UN forces, with at least 35 peacekeepers killed and over 140 wounded since MINUSMA was deployed in July 2013. The camp targeted on Wednesday is situated near the scene of the killing of a Red Cross worker two weeks ago. That attack was claimed by the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). Last month, a Chadian peacekeeper and two children died when militants fired more than thirty rockets at a UN barracks in the northern city of Kidal.

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