UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Attackers killed a UN peacekeeper and seriously injured eight others on Friday in northern Mali’s Timbuktu region, an area where extremists continue to operate, it said. the United Nations.
The peacekeepers were part of a security patrol that was first targeted by an improvised explosive device and then by direct fire in the town of Ber, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The United Nations joins the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, El-Ghassim Wane, in strongly condemning the attack, Dujarric said.
Mali has been ruled by a military junta since a 2020 coup against an elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Since 2013, it has faced destabilizing attacks from armed extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
In 2021, France and its European partners engaged in the fight against extremists in northern Mali withdrew from the country after the junta brought in mercenaries from the Russian Wagner group.
The United States warned Mali’s military government in April that it would be “irresponsible” for the United Nations to continue deploying its more than 15,000 peacekeepers unless the West African nation end restrictions, including on the use of reconnaissance drones, and fail to honor its political commitments to peace and March 2024 elections.
The warning comes as the UN Security Council considers three options proposed by Secretary-General António Guterres for the future of the peacekeeping mission: increase its size, reduce its footprint or withdraw troops and police and make it a political mission. His current term expires on June 30.
Dujarric said the peacekeeper killed on Friday was the ninth to die in Mali this year.
“This tragic loss is a stark reminder of the risks facing peacekeepers in Mali and around the world while working tirelessly to bring stability and peace to the people of Mali,” he said.