The soldiers, on a mission in the southern region, were part of France’s Barkhane military operations in Mali.
Mauritanian diplomat El-Ghassim Wane has been named the new UN envoy to Mali, where he will lead one of the organisation’s most important peace operations, the world body said.
Wane was the UN assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations between 2016 and 2017. Prior to that, he served six years in the African Union, where he returned as chief adviser to the commission chairperson from 2017 to 2019.
On behalf of the UN, he led a team in recent months to conduct an independent strategic review of the UN-led peacekeeping operation in South Sudan, one of the costliest UN missions.
He recommended that it be reduced in size, advice that was not acted upon. He is known “for his loyalty to the African Union,” and is very much interested in “African solutions for African issues,” UN sources said.
Wane will take over from former Chadian foreign minister, Annadif Khatir Mahamat Saleh, who could take over as head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, based in Dakar.
The UN peacekeeping force in Mali, known as MINUSMA, has approximately 14,500 soldiers and police.
The administration of former US President Donald Trump was highly critical of the Mali mission, whose annual mandate is up for renewal in June, saying it was not up to the task of dealing with the protracted Malian security crisis.