Two Egyptian peacekeepers killed in UN's deadliest operation against Mali extremists

One Jordanian peacekeeper was also killed during a 'hard week' in UN's toughest mission

A UN soldier stands guard near a UN vehicle that drove over an explosive device near Kidal, northern Mali, in 2016. AFP
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Two Egyptian peacekeepers were killed on Friday when their convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device in central Mali, where armed extremists have staged a series of deadly attacks in recent weeks.

El-Ghassim Wane, the UN's special representative for Mali and head of the beleaguered peacekeeping mission known as Minusma, said the blast in the volatile Mopti region came after a “very hard week for us”.

“Sad to report that two of the soldiers injured in an attack this morning not far from #Douentza are dead,” he posted on social media.

“A hard, very hard week for us. We can never say enough about the difficulty of our task and the extreme dedication of our #bluehelmets.”

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said two other peacekeepers were injured in the attack on the armoured personnel carrier outside the town of Douentza as the convoy travelled to Timbuktu.

No details were given about the suspected attackers.

Six Minusma peacekeeping convoys have been attacked since May 22. One peacekeeper from the mission’s Jordanian contingent was killed and three others were injured in an attack on a UN convoy on Wednesday.

That same day, two Red Cross workers were killed when their vehicle was attacked in western Mali.

Since 2012, Mali has been plagued by an insurgent groups linked to ISIS and Al Qaeda. Vast parts of the country are controlled by myriad rebel groups, militias and criminal gangs.

Minusma — the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali — was deployed in 2013 to shore up the turbulent Sahel state, where fighting has claimed thousands of lives and uprooted hundreds of thousands.

With 13,000 members, the mission is one of the UN's biggest peacekeeping operations as well as one of its most dangerous. It says some 260 personnel have been killed in the line of duty.

Egypt — together with Chad and Bangladesh — are the top three contributors to the force.

Mr Dujarric said Mali was an “extremely challenging” operation, but mission staff were “continuing their mandated work”, including rebuilding bridges destroyed in attacks.

“Mali has been the hardest-hit mission,” he said.

“Egyptians, Jordanians, Chadians and others have given their lives for the people of Mali for the cause of peace.”

Mali’s junta has turned away from France and towards Russia in its efforts to stem violence that began in the north of the country before spreading to the centre, and then into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Updated: June 03, 2022, 6:09 PM