UN officials condemn attack on peacekeepers in Mali

Gao, Mail- UN Peacekeepers from Senegal on an early morning patrol in Gao, Mali on Sunday, January 15, 2017. Despite the end of the occupation, many Malians find that security is still a major issue speaking of incidents of car jacking and looting. Even though crime is high, most of the deadly attacks that occur are against the United Nations Minusma mission, Malian soldiers and the French military. (Jane Hahn for the Washington Post)

Officials from the United Nations on Wednesday condemned an attack on its peacekeepers in Mali which left at least 20 of them injured.

FILE PHOTO: UN Peacekeepers on an early morning patrol in Gao, Mali. (Jane Hahn for the Washington Post/Getty Images)

Earlier on Wednesday, unidentified militants attacked the peacekeepers’ temporary base near Kerena village in the West African nation’s restive central region.

Olivier Salgado, the spokesman for the UN’s 13,000-strong MINUSMA mission in Mali, said the position was “targeted by direct and indirect fire”.

Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix confirmed that the injured peacekeepers were from a Togolese contingent.

“I strongly condemn this morning’s attack in Kerena, Mali, against the @UN_MINUSMA, with 28 injured. Our operations in the region protect populations; attacks on the mission target them as well. They must not go unpunished,” Lacroix tweeted.

“My thoughts to the brave Togolese soldiers wounded in the attack on @UN_MINUSMA, to the government, to the Togolese people & all my best wishes for a speedy recovery. Contribution of Togolese peacekeepers is vital to protect populations in the region. No impunity for those responsible,” he added.

Volkan Bozkir, the President of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, called the attack “unacceptable” as the peacekeepers were “simply carrying out their mandate”.

Mali is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for UN peacekeepers. More than 200 peacekeepers have been killed in ongoing counter-insurgency operations, according to UN figures.

Troops from Mali’s neighbours make up the majority of the more than 13,000 UN peacekeeping troops in Mali (MINUSMA).

Islamic extremists took over Mali’s north in 2012. France, Mali’s former colonial ruler, led a 2013 military operation that ousted them from their urban strongholds. Since then, however, the extremists roam through the open, desert areas of northern Mali.

Mali’s military has also failed to stem the violence despite support from France and the UN peacekeeping mission.