Gunmen kill 20 civilians, peacekeeper dies in Mali mine explosion
Raiders in Mali killed at least 20 civilians in attacks on villages near the northern town of Gao, while a UN peacekeeper died in the blast. a mine in the troubled region.
“Criminal terrorists” killed at least 20 civilians on Saturday in several hamlets in Anchawadj commune, a few dozen kilometers north of Gao, said a senior police officer who requested anonymity.
A local official put the death toll at 24, saying the killings took place in Ebak, about 35 kilometers (23 miles) north of Gao and nearby hamlets.
The official, in Gao, the main town in the region, described a “general panic” in the area.
The situation in Anchawadj was “very worrying” and civilians were fleeing the area fearing further violence, he added.
After Saturday’s bloodshed, a mine killed a peacekeeper on Sunday while patrolling further north in Kidal, tweeted the head of the MINUSMA force in Mali, el Ghassim Wane.
A Minusma official told AFP on condition of anonymity that the blue helmet was part of the Guinean contingent.
Although there has been no official confirmation that the attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda or Daesh (Islamic State) affiliated fighters active in the area.
The region has become increasingly violent and unstable since separatist Tuareg rebels rose up against the government in 2012.
The fighters used their rebellion to launch their own offensive, threatening the capital Bamako in the south until a French-led force pushed them back in 2013.
Tuareg separatists and the government agreed on a peace deal in 2015, but it has yet to be implemented.
So now Mali’s weak national government faces both separatist and terrorist insurgencies in the north of the country.
In addition to the separatist groups that were part of the stalled 2015 peace accord, the Malian government must also deal with terrorist groups.
They target those they consider to be supporters of the state apparatus.
The north of the country is a largely desert region with virtually no state infrastructure.
“A good part of the Gao region and that of Ménaka” are occupied by terrorists, the official told Gao. “The state must do something.
Some of the rebel groups also fought as they battled for influence and territory. Added to this unstable mix are traffickers and other criminal groups.
Government stability was interrupted by military coups in August 2020 and May 2021.
Following his latest report on the region, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned last month that instability in Mali and Burkina Faso was undermining attempts to stabilize the region.
The security situation in the Gao region has seriously deteriorated in recent months, he said.
He also expressed concern about Menaka, the eastern region bordering Niger.
Originally captured by a Tuareg rebel group a decade ago, it was quickly taken over by terrorist groups thereafter.