Senegalese Peacekeeper Killed in Latest Attack in MaliOctober 8, 2014 in Senegal
Days after nine Nigerien peacekeepers were killed in northern Mali, on Tuesday a Senegalese United Nations peacekeeper was killed when a joint French-UN military camp in the northern Malian town of Kidal was hit by rocket fire.
Olivier Salgado, spokesman for the UN force, which is known as MINUSMA, confirmed the attack, stating that between six and eight rockets had been fired at the camp. Officials in Senegal later confirmed that the peacekeeper who was killed in the attack was a member of Senegal’s 845-strong contingent deployed in Mali as part of the UN’s peacekeeping mission. Two other Senegalese peacekeepers were lightly injured.
While it remains unclear who is behind the latest attack, sources believe that Iyad Ag Ghaly, who led a Tuareg rebellion in the Sahara before forming Ansar Dine, may be the reason why Islamist insurgents operating in the region have recently increased their attacks on UN peacekeepers operating in Mali. After disappearing in January 2013, shortly after French troops intervened in a bid to drive Islamist insurgents away from the capital Bamako, Iyad Ag Ghaly resurfaced last month, issuing a video message signalling a return to combat. In the video, he indicated that his group was “ready to unite with our brothers on the ground to face up to the crusaders and infidels who have united to fight Islam in our land.” Sources from UN’s MINUSMA force in Mali believe that his militant group is likely behind the recent attacks however the reduction of French troops, coupled with the absence of Malian troops from the region, has also likely contributed to the recent upsurge of militant activity. UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous has also attributed the instability in southern Libya to the recent increase in attacks, stating that it is “a factor that plays a role in the fact that these jihadists…have restarted their activities. They have without doubt re-acquired equipment.”
On Friday, nine UN soldiers, all from neighbouring Niger, were killed in the northeastern desert region when armed men on motorbikes targeted them. That attack was claimed by a militant with links to Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). Friday’s attack brought the number of deaths in the UN mission since its deployment in July 2013 to thirty. Three Senegalese peacekeepers have now died in northern Mali.
For a period of ten months in 2012, Islamist groups Ansar Dine, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and MUJAO occupied the northern desert region of Mali, a region that makes up nearly two thirds of the country, before they were ousted by a French-led military operation launched in January 2013. While stability has generally been brought back to the region, militants have continued to carry out attacks, specifically targeting French troops. UN troops are now trying to stabilize the northern region while peace talks between the Malian government and Tuaregs continue.