Nine UN Peacekeepers Killed in Northern MaliOctober 3, 2014 in Mali
In another incident that targeted United Nations peacekeepers in Mali, on Friday nine UN peacekeepers were killed in an ambush on their convoy, the deadliest attack to occur on the UN mission in Mali.
According to Olivier Salgado, spokesman for the mission, the peacekeepers, who were all from neighbouring Niger, came under attack from heavily armed gunmen on motorbikes between the northeastern towns of Menaka and Ansongo. A statement released by the UN mission indicated “this morning, a convoy of MINUSMA peacekeepers from the Nigerien continent was the target of a direct attack while travelling to Indelimane, in the Menaka-Asongo corridor. A provisional toll indicated nine deaths.” UN officials have deployed aircraft to the region to secure the area where the attack took place, just 15 kilometres (9 miles) east of Indelimane.
While MINSUMA officials have not disclosed who was behind Friday’s attack, a UN officer from Niger has indicated that militants from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), an al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militia, were behind it. Sources have reported that MUJAO recently formed an alliance with militants from the Fulani ethnic group in the Gao region, where Friday’s attack took place. Menaka, an isolated desert town in eastern Mali is used mainly as a temporary refuge for nomadic Tuareg tribes however in May, it was the scene of intense fighting between the Malian government and three main separatist rebel groups.
In recent weeks, attacks on UN peacekeepers have sharply increased. Over the past few weeks, roadside bombs in the Kidal region have killed ten UN peacekeepers, all from Chad. The attacks prompted the government in N’Djamena to issue a statement to the UN indicating that the Chadian contingent of MINUSMA was suffering discrimination. In August, MUJAO claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on a MINUSMA base located close to the border with Algeria. They were also blamed for a suicide attack on August 16 that killed two soldiers from Burkina Faso serving with MINUSMA in the settlement of Ber, near the city of Timbuktu. Friday’s attack further underlines the fact that security in the northern region of Mali continues to be fragile, with militant groups continuing to operate in the region, and carrying out hit-and-run attacks despite the presence of foreign forces.