On 12th February 2016 a MINUSMA camp in the Northern Malian city of Kidal was attacked by Islamist militia. During the attack at least 6 Guinean peacekeepers were killed and around thirty other soldiers were left injured. The al-Qaeda affiliated Malian jihadist group, Ansar Dine has claimed responsibility for the assault. It was carried out early in the morning with the involvement of a suicide car bomb but witnesses accounted that gunfire was also heard, even from a long distance. Unfortunately, this attack was not the first one of its kind. The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali or MINUSMA is the most dangerous peacekeeping mission of the United Nations since its launch in Northern Mali in April 2013.
The Northern part of the country was overrun in 2012 by several jihadist and ethnic groups and they initiated numerous attacks against government forces. A Tuareg movement, the Mouvement national pour la libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) was supported by several Islamist groups that provided arms for the coup d’état on 22 March 2012. Ansar Dine, which carried out the most recent attack on UN forces was one of them, supported by the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Mouvement pour l’unicité et le jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO).
These joint armed groups defeated the state militia and declared the Independent State of Azawad in April 2012, holding the cities of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu. In a little while, MNLA was driven out from these main populated areas and the military equipped rebels remained. In January 2013, the situation got a lot worse as the jihadist – including Ansar Dine – moved southwards, capturing new towns. Even though African Union peacekeepers were present in the country, the President of Mali envisaged these forces to be unified with a large-scale UN mission. MINUSMA was then established with over 11,000 military personnel.
|MINUSMA (2013 – )||Mali||56||56||11200||12680|
|UNMIL (2003 – )||Libya||190||133||15000||5934|
|MINURSO (1991 – )||Western Sahara||15||5||237||210|
|UNAMID (2007 – )||Sudan||218||146||19555||17754|
|UNMISS (2011 – )||South Sudan||36||17||7000||12523|
|MINUSCA (2014 – )||CAR||2||2||11820||10806|
|UNISFA (2011 – )||Sudan||19||17||4200||4366|
|UNOCI (2004 – )||Ivory Coast||135||96||6910||6913|
|MONUSCO (2010 – )||Congo (DR)||93||56||22016||19784|
Since then, the UN peacekeeping forces in Mali have lost 56 troops in less then 3 years. Compared to other UN missions in the region, it is an especially high rate. UNMIL in Libya has had 133 troop fatalities since 2003, UNAMID in Sudan has lost 146 of its soldiers since 2007 while UNOCI in the Ivory Coast accounts for 96, MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for 56 peacekeepers’ deaths. Again, these missions have been launched several years ago. Judging only by troop fatalities, MINUSMA has the highest death toll in such a short period of time. Other missions – like MINUSCA in the Central African Republic with only 2 casualties since 2014 – seem to be more “safer”.
MINUSMA is an extremely dangerous mission as violence in West Africa has massively intensified over the past years – especially in the past few months. As I previously reported for The OWP, after the emergence of ISIS brutalities al-Qaeda and its affiliates started to show-off their powers more strategically than before. Hence, terror attacks in West Africa, that is home to the Boko Haram (an ISIS ally) and also to jihadist rebel groups with al-Quada connections, became more frequent and the area seems now like a scenery of this Islamist battle.