Egyptian UN peacekeepers killed by improvised bomb blast in Mali

Two UN reports published this week expressed alarm at the intensification of violence in central Mali.

Two UN peacekeepers were killed and two others injured when an improvised bomb exploded in central Mali, UN officials said.

The soldiers were part of the Egyptian contingent of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali – MINUSMA (UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali), officials said on Friday.

“The head of MINUSMA condemned the attack,” mission spokesman Olivier Salgado posted in a Tweet.

The Egyptian peacekeepers were in an escort of a dozen UN vehicles accompanying a convoy of civilian trucks carrying fuel, Salgado said.

A mine exploded as the convoy passed, Salgado said.

Such convoys can stretch for miles and mines can be detonated on contact or remotely by attackers.

The explosion took place near the town of Douentza, on the road to Timbuktu, UN special representative and head of MINUSMA El-Ghassim Wane said.

“A hard week, very hard for us. We can never say enough the difficulty of our task & the extreme dedication of our blue helmets,” Wane wrote in a tweet.

Two reports published this week – one from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and another from the human rights division of MINUSMA – expressed alarm at the intensification of the violence in central Mali.

On Wednesday, a Jordanian UN peacekeeper was killed in an attack on his convoy in Kidal, in northern Mali.

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are a weapon of choice used by rebels against MINUSMA and Malian government forces. They also kill many civilians.

Seven Togolese peacekeepers were killed in December by an IED explosion between Douentza and Sevare.

With 13,000 members, MINUSMA is one of the UN’s biggest peacekeeping operations, and also one of its most dangerous. The UN has reported that 174 troops have died from hostile acts, according to AFP news agency.

Since 2012 Mali has been racked by rebel groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State (IS) group, and central regions of the country have become a hotbed of violence and rebel activity that has spread from the north, and on to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thousands of civilians and combatants have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the fighting.

Mali’s ruling military government recently turned away from its traditional military ally France and towards Russia in its efforts to stem the armed unrest.

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