BAMAKO: Three UN peacekeepers in Mali have been killed by suspected bandits while travelling on leave along the road from the capital Bamako to neighbouring Guinea, sources said.
Friday’s attack was a robbery, a Malian security source told AFP, adding that the three victims were from Guinea, which contributes some 900 soldiers to the 15,000-strong UN stabilisation mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
At around 10:00 pm Friday, the three peacekeepers, “who were going on leave in a rental vehicle, were attacked by unidentified armed men on the road to Siby”, 44 kilometres (27 miles) southwest of Bamako, MINUSMA said in a statement Saturday.
“Three of them were killed and another wounded.”
A civilian who was driving the vehicle was also wounded, according to MINUSMA, which said it was “shocked by the cowardly assassination of the three Blue Helmets”.
According to an elected official of Siby, it was “a robbery that went wrong”.
“They were UN peacekeepers on leave who were going to Guinea. They were robbed by thugs who visibly panicked and shot” them, the official said on condition of anonymity, confirming the death toll.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack on the peacekeepers while the Security Council in a statement “called on the government of Mali to swiftly investigate this attack and bring the perpetrators to justice”.
The UN mission was established in Mali after Islamist militias seized the north of the country in 2012. They were pushed back by French troops in 2013.
A peace agreement signed in 2015 by the Bamako government and armed groups was aimed at restoring stability. But the accord has failed to stop violence by Islamist militants.
Since their deployment in 2013, more than 190 peacekeepers have died in Mali, including nearly 120 killed by hostile action, making MINUSMA the UN’s deadliest peacekeeping operation, accounting for more than half of blue helmets killed globally in the past five years.