BAMAKO, Mali, MAY 26 – Militants opened fire on two Bangladeshi peacekeepers in Mali’s Bamako on Monday, killing one, the second attack within days in the capital of what is considered the most dangerous UN mission in the world.
One of the peacekeepers, both ranked as privates, died on the scene and the other was rushed immediately to hospital with bullet wounds after the ambush on their SUV, Bangladesh army spokesman Nur Islam said Tuesday.
“Armed men that we have not yet identified shot at two peacekeepers who were on board a UN vehicle on Monday night. One of them was killed and the other seriously wounded,” a Malian security source told AFP.
“We are seeking clarification and details. This has to be viewed as a terrorist act. The perpetrators are the enemies of peace,” the source added.
With more than 40 peacekeepers killed since its inception in 2013, the 11,000-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping force in the country is considered the most dangerous UN mission in the world.
It is regularly targeted by militants in the north and while attacks in the capital are rare, Monday’s ambush came just five days after a militant opened fire on a UN residence in the city’s Faso Kanu neighbourhood.
A source from MINUSMA told AFP that the peacekeepers had been travelling from Bamako airport towards the south of the city when they were shot at by assailants from a car.
The unidentified gunman shot and wounded a civilian guard and hurled two grenades which failed to explode in the early hours of Wednesday last week, but no troops were hurt.
The country’s northern desert has been plagued by violence by jihadist groups that seized control of the region from Tuareg rebels before being routed by a French-led international intervention that began in 2013.
The UN in January named Northern Mali as the deadliest place for its personnel last year, with 28 peacekeepers killed there between June and October.
– Upsurge in violence –
Despite peaceful elections after the French operation, the country remains deeply divided and the north has seen an upsurge in attacks by pro-government militias and the Tuareg-led rebellion known as the CMA.
The government and several armed groups signed a peace accord on May 15 in a ceremony in Bamako attended by numerous heads of state but missing the crucial backing of the CMA.
France’s defence ministry announced last week special forces had killed Amada Ag Hama, known as “Abdelkrim the Tuareg”, who claimed the kidnapping and murder of two French journalists in Mali in 2013.
He was a leader of an Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) battalion and a former lieutenant of Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, one of the AQIM commanders killed fighting the French army in northern Mali in February 2013.
Abdelkrim was among four jihadists killed in the raid on Monday last week, along with another key figure, Ibrahim Ag Inawalen, known as “Bana”.
The French defence ministry said the men were “two of the main leaders” of AQIM and Ansar Dine, another jihadist outfit linked to Al-Qaeda.
No group has claimed responsibility for either attack on the UN in Bamako, but they come at a time of strained relations between the government and MINUSMA, which has complained that its impartiality has been “regularly called into question”.