At least three United Nations peacekeepers have been killed and five seriously wounded in central Mali when their convoy struck a roadside bomb, the latest blow for the world’s most dangerous UN peacekeeping mission.
The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali said in a Twitter post that its convoy had hit an improvised explosive device on Tuesday.
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It added that the toll was preliminary and did not give details about the nationalities of the people killed and wounded.
Central #Mali 🇲🇱. A MINUSMA Force convoy hit an Improvised Explosive Device #IED today, 21 February. According to preliminary reports, 3 #Peacekeepers lost their lives and 5 others are seriously injured. They are #NotATarget.
More info to follow. #PK75#A4P pic.twitter.com/FSS6M7fk7E
— MINUSMA (@UN_MINUSMA) February 21, 2023
Mali has been plagued by a conflict that began as a northern separatist movement in 2012 but has since devolved into a multitude of armed groups jockeying for control in the country’s central and northern regions.
Fighting has spread to neighbouring countries, including Burkina Faso and Niger, and the deteriorating security situation in the region has unleashed a humanitarian crisis.
Some of the armed groups have links to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS).
Created in 2013, the UN mission in Mali is one of the world body’s biggest peacekeeping deployments with more than 13,500 military personnel and police.
But it has suffered a high casualty rate, especially due to roadside bombs. At least 281 peacekeepers have been killed.
In August 2020, democratically elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was removed in a military coup after months of mass protests against alleged corruption and worsening security.
The military government has developed closer ties with the Kremlin, bringing in Russian paramilitaries and equipment, as relations with France, Mali’s traditional ally and former colonial power, spiralled downwards.
France withdrew its last soldiers from Mali last year.
The military government in Bamako routinely claims that it is gaining the upper hand against the fighters since it has pivoted towards Russia.
On Monday, it protested after the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, said the Malian state was “collapsing” and the fighters were capturing more territory.