Two Egyptian peacekeepers of the United Nations Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and two Malian soldiers were killed on Monday morning in two separate events in Mali, the UN and the Malian army announced.
"This morning, a MINUSMA logistics convoy hit an improvised explosive device north of Mopti (centre). According to a first assessment, the explosion caused the death of two peacekeepers, four others were injured," wrote MINUSMA spokesman Olivier Salgado in a tweet. Later the UN said the two dead peacekeepers were Egyptian soldiers.
The head of MINUSMA, El-Ghassim Wane, "strongly condemned this attack" in a statement on Monday, calling on "Malian authorities to spare no effort to identify the perpetrators of these attacks". The UN Security Council condemned "in the strongest terms" the attack on MINUSMA and extended its deepest sympathies to the families of the Malian soldiers killed.
The Malian Armed Forces (FAMA) announced the death of two of their soldiers during fighting in the Gao region (north of the country). The FAMA announced that they had "repelled an attack by Armed Terrorist Groups (GAT)". The operation was still underway at midday on Monday and the Malian army said in a tweet that nine deaths had been recorded "on the side of the attackers".
The new violence comes just days after at least 27 soldiers were killed in an attack on a military camp in Mondoro, central Mali. The incidents come at a time when the withdrawal of France and its European partners from Mali, announced in February, is leading the UN force to study the impact of this disengagement. On Thursday, Stockholm announced that Sweden's participation in the UN force will end a year earlier than planned, in 2023 instead of 2024.
With some 13,000 troops, MINUSMA, created in 2013 to support the Malian political process, is the UN's deadliest peacekeeping mission. A total of 171 MINUSMA peacekeepers have died in hostile acts, according to the mission.
Mali, landlocked in the heart of the Sahel, has seen two military coups in August 2020 and May 2021. The political crisis is coupled with a serious security crisis that has been ongoing since 2012 and the outbreak of independence and jihadist insurgencies in the north.
The ruling military junta has reneged on its pledge to hold snap elections to return civilians to power and has claimed national sovereignty since the community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed heavy economic and diplomatic sanctions on Mali on 9 January.
For its part, the French army announced on Monday that it had killed a senior Algerian member of the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) jihadist group at the end of February in northern Mali, for whom he was the "financial and logistical coordinator". On the night of 25 to 26 February, "the Barkhane force conducted an operation targeting a historic senior AQIM leader about 100 km north of Timbuktu, Mali. This operation led to the neutralisation of the Algerian jihadist Yahia Djouadi, alias Abou Ammar al Jazairi," according to a statement from the general staff.