UN peacekeepers. PHOTO: www.un.org
A peacekeeper from Niger was shot dead by militants in northern Mali on Friday, the UN’s mission to the country said, the latest in a spate of deadly attacks on “Blue Helmets” in the conflict-torn country.
“Today at 7:00 pm (1900 GMT) two unidentified gunmen opened fire on a MINUSMA vehicle in Gao City,” the mission, known by its acronym MINUSMA, said in the statement.
The peacekeeper died on the way to hospital in Gao, the main city in northern Mali, the statement added.
Mali is one of the most dangerous UN missions, with more than 150 peacekeepers killed since 2013. One hundred and two of those killed died due to hostile acts by militants.
Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the head of MINUSMA, said he was “outraged that once again peacekeepers are being attacked”.
MINUSMA has a 12,500-strong force in the country, backed by a further 4,000 French troops who are on an anti-jihadist mission.
The attack in Gao came a day after two UN peacekeepers from Chad were killed and 10 more wounded during a mortar attack on their camp in Aguelhok, northeastern Mali.
Last month four UN peacekeepers were killed when a mine exploded under their vehicle in central Mali.
Six Malian soldiers were killed a week earlier in another mine attack on their convoy.
Once a beacon of democracy and stability in Africa, Mali has been undermined by a coup, civil war and Islamist terrorism.
Extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of Mali’s desert north in early 2012, but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.
In June 2015, Mali’s government signed a peace agreement with some armed groups, but the jihadists remain active, and large tracts of the country are lawless.
The United Nations Security Council is due to hold a session Wednesday to discuss jihadist violence in Mali and the wider Sahel region.