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14 Aug, 2023 16:52

UN troops exit Mali base early over safety concerns

The deteriorating security situation in Ber poses a high risk to the peacekeeping force, the global body says
UN troops exit Mali base early over safety concerns

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) announced on Sunday that it had expedited the evacuation of its base in the northern town of Ber, citing worsening security conditions.

In a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, the peacekeeping mission said the “deterioration of security in the area” poses a high risk to its blue helmet forces who operate there.

[MINUSMA] urges all concerned parties to refrain from any actions that could further complicate the operation,” it added.

In June, the UN Security Council agreed to complete the withdrawal of the peacekeeping forces in Mali at the end of the year, following the transitional government’s demand for the mission to end without delay.

The removal of the MINUSMA mission, which was established in 2013 to help combat jihadist insurgencies in the Sahel nation, has heightened tensions between the military rulers and the CMA. The UN reported that more than 11,000 soldiers and 1,600 police officers had been deployed as of February of this year.

Late on Sunday, the Malian Armed Forces (FaMa) reported that seven soldiers were killed and at least eight injured in clashes with the former rebel group, Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), between Friday and Sunday.

According to the statement, the state forces “retaliated” against an “attempted incursion” on their position by “armed terrorist groups” on Friday, adding that 28 of the rebels had been killed as a result of the clash. The army said it had taken control of Ber as part of the transfer of sites occupied by the UN peacekeeping force.

In another statement after it had announced the decision to withdraw its troops, the UN mission said its convoy that “withdrew from Ber” had been “attacked twice,” with three wounded peacekeepers evacuated to Timbuktu for treatment.

Attacks against peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law,” it warned.

Meanwhile, CMA, a coalition of Tuareg ethnic-dominated groups seeking autonomy from the Malian state, accused the FaMa and Wagner Group PMC of jointly opening fire on one of its locations near the town of Ber on Friday.

FaMa is taking whatever it costs to occupy MINUSMA companies, including those located in the CMA-controlled areas, in violation” of a 2014 ceasefire and security deal, the former rebel group claimed in a statement.

The May 2014 Algiers peace agreement was signed between the CMA and the Malian government to put an end to a cycle of Tuareg uprisings since the country gained independence from France in 1960.

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