UNITED NATIONS — Two U.N. peacekeepers were killed Friday when their armored personnel carrier hit an improvised explosive device in central Mali in the sixth incident in less than two weeks targeting the U.N. mission in the West African nation that has faced a decade-long Islamic insurgency.
Their APC was escorting a civilian convoy and was on its way from Douentza to Timbuktu when it hit the device, he said.
“The intent is to disrupt the lives of the Malian people, to disrupt transport, to disrupt security,” Dujarric said. “These roads are used by civilians, civilian trucks, civilian buses, but also by the security forces, whether it’s the Malian army or U.N. peacekeepers … (who) have been victims over and over again of improvised explosive devices.”
It was the sixth incident in which a U.N. peacekeeping mission convoy was hit since May 22 and the second fatal attack on a convoy this week, the U.N. spokesman said.
A U.N. peacekeeping convoy was attacked by suspected terrorists in the northern Kidal region on Wednesday and a Jordanian peacekeeper was killed and three other Jordanians were wounded. Dujarric said the supply convoy came under sustained fire for about an hour from attackers who used small arms and rocket launchers.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the latest attack against the 18,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali whose primary mandate is to protect civilians.
Mali has struggled to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency since 2012. Extremist rebels were forced from power in Mali’s northern cities with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regrouped in the desert and began launching attacks on the Malian army and its allies. Insecurity has worsened with attacks in the northern and central regions on civilians and U.N. peacekeepers.
The U.N. mission says over 255 of its peacekeepers and personnel have died since 2013, making Mali the deadliest of the U.N.’s dozen peacekeeping missions worldwide.
“The word grateful isn’t strong enough to express how we feel towards those member states which continue to provide many peacekeepers around the world,” Dujarric said. “Egyptians, Jordanians, Chadians and others have given their lives for the people of Mali for the cause of peace and we’re eternally grateful for their continued support.”
The head of the U.N. mission in Mali, El Ghassim Wane, condemned Friday’s attack on the U.N. convoy, saying such attacks can constitute war crimes.
He also condemned an attack Wednesday near Kayes in western Mali on Wednesday by gunmen riding motorcycles against a vehicle marked with the Red Cross emblem that killed a worker for the Dutch Red Cross and the car’s driver.