Mali roadside blast kills three UN peacekeepers, injures five others

Wednesday February 22 2023
A UN armoured vehicle in Mali

Senegalese soldiers under the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, Minusma. Three UN peacekeepers were killed and five injured on February 21, 2023, when their convoy struck a roadside bomb in central Mali. Anonymous sources said they were from a mission in Senegal. PHOTO | SOULEYMANE AG ANARA | AFP


The UN said, in a fresh blow to the long-running peace operation, that three Senegalese UN peacekeepers were killed and five seriously injured on Tuesday after their convoy struck a roadside bomb in militant-torn central Mali.

An impoverished state lying in the heart of West Africa's Sahel, Mali is struggling with an 11-year-old militant insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and forced thousands from their homes.

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (Minusma) was created in 2013.

An anonymous UN official confirmed the peacekeepers were from a mission in Senegal.

Suffering a high toll

With more than 13,500 military personnel and police, it is one of the biggest but also dangerous UN peacekeeping missions, suffering a high toll especially to home-made bombs.


On January 16, 2023, UN Chief Antonio Guterres said in a report that 165 peacekeepers had died and 687 were wounded in hostile acts since July 2013.

The UN report recorded 548 IED attacks up to the date, claiming 103 lives and 638 wounded, among them a Minusma personnel.

"Minusma is a peacekeeping operation where there is no peace to keep," Guterres said.

He cited obstacles including the size of the country, the state of its roads, the lack of a combat mandate and resources for the force. 

He also noted the withdrawal of French soldiers and their European allies and restrictions imposed on the UN mission's movements by the military junta.

"The current situation is unsustainable," he said in the report.


Anger within the Malian military at the government's failure to roll back the insurgency led to a coup against the elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, in August 2020.

The junta wove closer ties with The Kremlin, bringing in Russian paramilitaries and equipment, as relations with France, the country's traditional ally, spiralled downwards.

France in 2022 withdrew its last troops from Mali deployed under its long-running Barkhane anti-militant force in the Sahel.

The junta in Bamako routinely claims that it is gaining the upper hand against the militants since it has pivoted to Russia.

On Monday, it protested after the Head of European Council, Charles Michel, last week said that the Malian state was "collapsing" and that the militants were gaining ground.

The militant insurgency began alongside a revolt by ethnic Tuaregs demanding self-rule in the north of the country in 2012.

France sent in troops to beat back the rebellion, but the militants regrouped and expanded into the centre of the country in 2015.

From there, they carried out bloody incursions into neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

Northern tension

Meanwhile, armed groups who in 2015 signed a peace deal with the government on Tuesday said they were mustering a major force to tackle insecurity and doing so without the junta.

"Forces are converging on Anefis and there is another group in Ber," said Mohamed Elmaouloud Ramadane, Spokesman of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), a coalition for former rebels.

Anefis is located in the Kidal region and Ber in the Timbuktu region. 

Both regions have been battered by a months-long militant attacks linked to the Islamic State group.

“The operation will entail hundreds of men and a large number of vehicles and will chiefly comprise patrols to boost security for local people.” the CMA said.

Asked whether the state would also take part in the operation, the spokesman said, "Not at all. We are intervening in the zones that we control."

The CMA joined the government and pro-government forces in signing the Algerian-mediated peace deal in 2015.

The accord offered more local autonomy and the chance for former rebels to integrate their fighters into a state-run "reconstituted" army that would operate throughout the north and maintain security in Kidal Mali.

It has often been touted as a potential blueprint for overcoming Mali's chronic problems.

But it has come under mounting strain.

Virtually all of the armed groups who signed it have suspended participation in the agreement, accusing the junta of failing to uphold its side of the deal.