UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A U.N. peacekeeping convoy was attacked by suspected terrorists in northern Mali on Wednesday and a Jordanian peacekeeper was killed and three other Jordanians were wounded, the United Nations said.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the supply convoy was under sustained fire for about an hour from attackers who used small arms and rocket launchers.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the attack and sent deepest condolences to the families of the peacekeepers and the government and people of Jordan, Dujarric said.
According to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, the attack was the fifth incident in the northern Kidal region in just one week, Dujarric said.
“It is a tragic reminder of the complexity of the mandate of the U.N. mission and of its peacekeepers, and the threats peacekeepers face on a daily basis,” he said.
The Security Council later released a statement condemning the attack and and calling on authorities in Mali to investigate and bring those responsible to justice. The staatment added that council “underlined that attacks targeting peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law.”
Mali has struggled to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency since 2012. Extremist rebels were forced from power in Mali’s northern cities with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regrouped in the desert and began launching attacks on the Malian army and its allies. Insecurity has worsened with attacks in the northern and central regions on civilians and U.N. peacekeepers.
Mali’s military returned to Kidal, a longtime rebel stronghold in the north, in February 2020, six years after its forces retreated amid violence. U.N. peacekeepers have also been deployed in the north.
The U.N. force has said over 250 of its peacekeepers and personnel have died since 2013, making Mali the deadliest of the U.N.’s dozen peacekeeping missions worldwide.
The U.N. special representative for Mali, El Ghassim Wane, issued a statement Wednesday saying the U.N. mission remains determined to support Mali’s people and government in their quest for peace and security, Dujarric said.
In August 2020, Malian President Boubacar Ibrahim Keita, who died in January, was overthrown in a coup that included Assimi Goita, then an army colonel. Last June, Goita was sworn in as president of a transitional government after carrying out his second coup in nine months.
In mid-May, Goita’s government said security forces had thwarted a countercoup attempt that it said was supported by an unnamed Western government.
The accusations of foreign interference come as Goita’s regime becomes increasingly isolated. A day earlier, the government announced that Mali was dropping out of a five-nation regional security force known as the G5. It was also sharply critical of former colonial power France, which announced in February it was pulling its troops out of Mali.
While Mali’s junta initially agreed to an 18-month transition back to civilian rule, it failed to organize elections by the deadline in February. Last month, the government said it would need two more years in power before it could organize a vote.