Three UN peacekeepers rocket attacked in military base, north Mali

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May 24th, 2021.

By: Norvisi Eyiram Mawunyegah

Three United Nations peacekeepers have been extremely wounded in a rocket attack on a military base in northern Mali, UN and local officials said.

Olivier Salgado, the spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission in the West African country, MINUSMA, said Sunday’s attack took place on a base in Tessalit, hosting Malian soldiers, UN peacekeepers and French troops. Three peacekeepers were “gravely wounded” in the attack, he added.

Mali has been battling a brutal uprising since 2012, when rebel fighters first emerged during a rebellion by ethnic Tuareg separatists in the north.

France intervened to crush the rebellion, but the fighters scattered and regrouped, taking their campaign into central Mali in 2015 and then into neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso.

First established in 2013, the 13,000-strong MINUSMA has suffered one of the highest death tolls of any mission in UN peacekeeping history. More than 130 of its personnel have been killed as a result of hostile acts, including six this year, according to UN statistics, out of a total of around 230 deaths since the mission began. Earlier this month, four UN peacekeepers were killed and several others wounded after fighters attacked their based in the northern town of Aguelhok.

In March, some 100 heavily armed fighters on pick-up trucks and motorbikes attacked a military post in Tessit, killing at least 33 soldiers. The army said it killed 20 of the attackers. Nine soldiers were killed and nine others wounded in an attack in February near the central town of Bandiagara.Rebel attacks in central Mali typically involve roadside bombs or hit-and-run raids on motorbikes or pick-up trucks.

Meanwhile, the insecurity has spread across the arid scrub-lands of the Sahel, into Burkina Faso and Niger, with groups exploiting the poverty of marginalized communities and inflaming tensions between ethnic groups. Attacks grew five-fold between 2016 and 2020, with 4,000 people killed in the three countries last year, up from about 770 in 2016, according to the UN.