Peacekeeper killed in Mali blast

Peacekeeper killed in Mali blast

In April, four Chadian peacekeepers from Minusma were killed in a jihadist attack on their camp in Aguelhok, also in northeastern Mali.

Agency Report

A peacekeeper died Saturday and four others were seriously injured in Mali's volatile north near the Algerian border when an improvised explosive device went off, the UN said.

"One dead and three seriously injured after one of our teams hit an improvised explosive device near Tessalit", close to the Algerian border, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, Minusma, said.

"This incident is a sad reminder of the permanent danger hanging over our peacekeepers and of the sacrifices made for peace in Mali", head of Minusma El-GhassimWane was quoted as saying in a statement.

"Today's cowardly attack only strengthens Minusma's determination to support Mali and its people in their quest for peace and stability," he said.

In April, four Chadian peacekeepers from Minusma were killed in a jihadist attack on their camp in Aguelhok, also in northeastern Mali.

Minusma, deployed in Mali since 2013, is currently the deadliest United Nations peace mission in the world, with 145 killed in hostile acts recorded as of August 31, according to UN statistics.

The current force includes more than 12,000 soldiers.

The latest death among the peacekeepers comes amid continuing uncertainty over the future of foreign military forces in the country.

Mali's new military-dominated government took delivery Saturday of four Russian military helicopters as it considers hiring Russian mercenaries to work for them.

- Controversy over Russian firm -

European countries warned the Malian government on the sidelines of last week's UN General Assembly against hiring paramilitaries from the controversial Wagner group, a Russian private security firm.

The Wagner group is considered close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Western countries accuse it of acting on behalf of Moscow.

The new regime is reportedly in the process of hiring 1,000 paramilitaries from Wagner, a move viewed with grave concern by former colonial power France, which currently maintains a 5,000-strong counter-terrorism mission there.

It was French military intervention in 2013 that helped defeat a jihadist insurgency there.

But Paris is due to reduce the number of its troops in the Sahel from 5,000 currently to 2,500 or 3,000 by 2023. It wants to reorganise its presence around a tighter unit centred on targeted strikes against jihadist leaders and on supporting local armies.

At the UN last month, Mali's Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga reacted to the decision by accusing France of abandoning his country. Bamako was justified to "seek other partners" to boost security, he added.

French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the comments as "inadmissible" in the same week another soldier died in Mali, the 52nd service member lost there since 2013.


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