UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) – An “unprecedented” attack by gunmen wearing UN uniforms and arriving on board booby-trapped vehicles and using rocket launchers targeted two camps for the UN mission and the French army of Barrakhan, killing one person and wounding about 20 others.
The attack began at 14:00 local time (GMT) and the time of Greenwich in the port of the northern Mali city where UN troops and men from the French garrison are stationed.
In a statement, the Ministry of Financial Security said in a statement that while the two camps were being subjected to “about 10 rockets,” men in international peacekeepers tried to “sneak” into the military zone on two booby-trapped vehicles.
One of the vehicles carries the emblem of the armed forces of finance and the second is the short name of the United Nations. The first exploded while the second was defused.
The UN mission said one peacekeeper was killed “during an exchange of fire.” About 10 others were wounded. The Ministry of Financial Security said that about 10 “wounded” were killed in the ranks of the Burgan force.
“The fighting ended at about 18:30,” the ministry said, more than four hours after it began. Bamako and the UN mission confirmed they had regained control of the situation.
In a tweet on Twitter, the UN force spoke of a “major, complex attack” that brought together “mortars”, “exchanges of fire” and “a booby-trapped attack”.
“This is the first attack of this magnitude against Minusma (the UN mission in Mali) in Timbuktu,” a foreign security source told AFP.
“It is an unprecedented attack, involving missiles, rockets and explosions, and there may be suicide bombers,” a local official told AFP.
– Expected enhancements –
The UN force, deployed in Mali in 2013, has about 12,000 troops and police. It is currently the most costly humanitarian casualty mission among UN peacekeeping operations.
Before Saturday’s attack, 160 people were killed, 102 of them in hostile action, more than half of the UN soldiers killed in the world.
It is expected to receive Canadian reinforcements in the coming months after Ottawa announced on March 19 its decision to deploy air support, including helicopters and peacekeeping troops, for one year in Mali.
Al Qaeda-linked groups seized control of northern Mali from March-April 2012 to January 2013 when an international military operation was launched from France.
Despite the dispersion and expulsion of these groups, entire areas of the country remain outside the control of the French and French financial forces and the UN force despite the signing in May and June of 2015 of a peace agreement that was supposed to allow the isolation of jihadists.
– “Arbitrary Executions” –
Since April 11, some 1,500 African, American and European soldiers have been conducting maneuvers in western and northern Niger to train against terrorist threats.
The exercise is expected to boost the effectiveness of the five Sahel forces, which in mid-2018 will have 5,000 troops from Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Chad and Burkina Faso.
On the other hand, the representative of the Commission on Human Rights in Mali, Guillaume Ngiva on Thursday, “arbitrary executions of at least 95 people” in the region of Minaka, adjacent to the Niger.
Suspicion has been raised over two armed groups involved in security operations with the French and French forces, the Self-Defense Group of the Tuareg Imgad and its allies (GATIA) and the Save Azawad Movement, which denied any involvement.
The two groups are suspected of exploiting their proximity to Barqhan’s power to settle old disputes on land, especially with the Fulani tribes.