At least three United Nations peacekeepers from Bangladesh have been killed after their vehicle hit an explosive device in Mali’s troubled north. The peacekeeping mission, known as the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) said that another five soldiers had been seriously wounded. The attack occurred early Sunday morning on a road between the towns of Anefis and Gao, a day after Bangladeshi peacekeepers successfully fended off another armed attack.
Head of MINUSMA, Koen Davidse stated that “Our thoughts go first to the families and loved ones. We pledge our complete support to them during this painful ordeal. The mission will use all means to ensure that justice is rendered.”
MINUSMA began operations in 2013 by providing security to Malian troops when key cities fell under the control of Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist groups. These terrorist groups had exploited an ethnic Tuareg-led rebel uprising the year before. Although the Islamists were largely ousted, much of the region remains lawless and attacks have persisted on UN and French soldiers, civilians and the Malian Army. 80 peacekeepers have been killed, making it the UN’s deadliest peacekeeping mission.
The violence prompted the G5 Sahel countries: Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina, to launch a multinational force to fight armed groups in the Sahel region. The force has been operating in the region since July along with 12,000 UN peacekeepers and 5,000 French troops already in Mali. Despite this, Marie Roger Biloa, editor of Africa International, stated that it has proved extremely difficult to bring troops from different countries to effectively work together. She called for increased political efforts to address Mali’s “very complicated” situation. “The problem is that France wants to fight terror – but they fail to realise or take into consideration that Mali is having internal problems to solve.”
It are these internal problems that must first be dealt with in order to effectively secure peace. It is essential that the international community take greater responsibility to work together to secure peace in Mali. Peacekeepers must look to establish cooperation first within communities, and then in wider society. Peaceful action must be taken in order to prevent further events, such as this one, that may take more innocent lives.