A deadly attack at the weekend against peacekeepers serving with the United Nations mission in Mali, MINUSMA, has been condemned in the strongest terms by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.
Similarly, the UN chief in the second week of last February condemned what he described as a “complex attack” against the UN mission in the troubled West African country.
An assault by unidentified armed elements on a temporary operating base of the UN Integrated Stabilisation Mission for Mali (MINUSMA) in Kerena, near Douentza in Central Mali, resulted in the death of a Togolese peacekeeper and the wounding of 27 others.
In a statement by Guterres’ spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, the UN chief emphasized that attacks against UN blue helmets “may constitute a war crime” and called on the Malian authorities to “spare no efforts in promptly holding to account the perpetrators of this heinous attack”.
He expressed his deep condolences to the victim’s family and to the people and Government of Togo and wished the injured a full recovery.
The Malian government has been seeking to restore stability and rebuild the volatile country’s institutions following a series of setbacks since early 2012 that fractured the country, including a failed coup d’état, renewed fighting between government forces and Tuareg rebels, and the short-lived seizure of its northern territory by radical extremists.
Security Council castigation
Previously, the Security Council had issued a statement condemning the attack “in the strongest terms” while stressing that involvement in “planning, directing, sponsoring or conducting attacks against MINUSMA peacekeepers constitutes a basis for sanctions designations”, pursuant to its resolutions.
Moreover, they reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations “constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security”.
The Council underlined the need to “bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice” and upheld that those responsible be held accountable.
They urged all states, to “cooperate actively with all relevant authorities” and reiterated that any “acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable”, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.
The Council members expressed their concern over the security situation in Mali as well as the transnational terrorist threat in the Sahel region, reiterating their full support of MINUSMA and other security presences in the country and throughout the Sahel region.
They urged the Malian parties to “fully implement the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali without further delay”, which they noted could, along with intensified efforts to overcome “asymmetric threats”, contribute to improved security across the State.
The members further underscored the importance that MINUSMA have the necessary capacities to fulfil its mandate.
“The members of the Security Council stressed that these heinous acts will not undermine their determination to continue to support the peace and reconciliation process in Mali”, the statement concluded.
The attack came on the same day of a historic meeting in Kidal of the Monitoring Committee of the Peace Agreement .
The high-level meeting, chaired by Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum, brought together six Malian Ministers, the leadership of the signatory armed movements and the International Mediation and marked its first meeting outside of Bamako since it was signed in 2015.
Guterres had congratulated the Malian people and welcomed the “new momentum and…growing trust among the signatory parties” and encouraged them to “build upon this positive dynamic by translating the agreed commitments into actions so that the Malian people could reap the benefits of peace”.
However, the four peacekeepers from Chad were killed, and 19 others wounded, when armed elements launched a complex attack against the mission’s camp in Aguelhok, located in the Kidal region in the northeast of the country.
“The Secretary-General recalls that attacks targeting peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law and that sanctions can be applied against those responsible”, his Spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said in a statement.
“He calls on the Malian authorities to spare no effort in identifying and promptly holding to account the perpetrators of this heinous attack.”
Heavily armed terrorists
The assault took place around 6:15 a.m. local time. Helicopters were dispatched to the scene to evacuate the wounded. “Peacekeepers valiantly repelled a complex attack carried out by several heavily armed terrorists”, MINUSMA said in a statement, issued in French, noting that several of the attackers were also killed.
The mission strongly condemned the attack, describing it as “yet another attempt against the peace process and the implementation of the Agreement by enemies of peace”.
The head of UN Peacekeeping, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, took to Twitter to condemn the attack. “This crime must not go unpunished”, he wrote in French.
Both the UN mission and Lacroix offered their condolences to the Government of Chad, and to the families of the fallen peacekeepers, and wished a speedy and complete recovery to the wounded blue helmets.
MINUSMA, officially the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, has been in the country since 2013, following a military coup and the occupation of the north by radical Islamists.
The mission supports implementation of a 2015 peace agreement signed by the authorities and two coalitions of armed groups, and is considered the most dangerous UN operation to serve in.