Some 22 United Nations peacekeepers have been injured in northern Mali after their convoy was hit by two improved explosive devices (IEDs) as they continued their withdrawal from the country amid deteriorating security.
There have now been six incidents since the peacekeepers left their base in northern Kidal on October 31 to make the estimated 350km (220-mile) journey to Gao, injuring a total of at least 39 peacekeepers, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Monday.
“On Saturday, the convoy encountered two other improvised explosive devices near the town of Anefis,” Dujarric told reporters in New York, saying he did not know if the devices had been there for a long time or whether the peacekeepers were deliberately targeted.
The injured were evacuated by air for medical treatment in Gao, he added.
Eight peacekeepers were injured and evacuated on November 1 and a further seven last Friday as a result of IEDs.
In June, Mali’s military rulers ordered the nearly 15,000-strong peacekeeping force, known as MINUSMA or the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission, to leave.
The withdrawal is expected to be completed by December 31 despite the deepening conflict in the West African country.
Kidal, which had about 850 peacekeepers and 150 other mission personnel, was the third and final MINUSMA camp to be evacuated in the Kidal region. A Tuareg-dominated alliance of armed groups that recently relaunched a rebellion against the state claimed to have taken over shortly after MINUSMA’s departure.
The peacekeeping force was established by the UN Security Council in 2013 and initially helped restore some calm to northern areas. But violence has persisted and MINUSMA has been increasingly hobbled by tensions and government restrictions since Mali teamed up with Russia’s Wagner mercenary group in 2021.
The Security Council voted to end its mandate on June 30.