UN peacekeeper injured in attack on MINUSMA base in Kidal
Two blue helmets were injured on Wednesday April 3 in a mortar and rifle attack against a United Nations base in Kidal, in the desert in northern Mali.
The attack took place the same day the UN Security Council agreed to discuss the overhaul of MINUSMA’s peacekeeping force in Mali, including a possible major withdrawal.
— Rida Lyammouri (@rmaghrebi) April 3, 2019
The attack has begun in the early afternoon. Several rockets landed at the MINUSMA base on the outskirts of town, and a peacekeeper was injured, RFI reported. One resident estimated the attack lasted an hour and told RFI they “heard very loud bangs” followed by what sounded like automatic gunfire.
Anonymous sources told the Nord Sud Journal that several shells hit the base, and a MINUSMA source said they “heard shelling”.
April 4 Update During the daily press briefing, the spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, Stéphane Dujarric, confirmed that the MINUSMA base in Kidal had been attacked by unknown assailants.
“Nine mortar shells were fired, seven of which exploded inside the camp premises,” Dujarric said, adding that “two Chadian peacekeepers were slightly injured and two helicopters were damaged.”
Later Wednesday, in a somewhat enigmatic setting Tweeter, the MINUSMA Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Dennis Gyllensporre, shared a video apparently shot from an aerial surveillance and reconnaissance platform which he said originated from Kidal. The eight-second video showed what appeared to be a group of 28 armed people walking next to a berm outside the northeast corner of the UN base. We don’t know who the people are.
The MINUSMA force “will never hesitate to act”, Gyllensporre said. “An attack on force is an attack on peace in Mali.”
— Dennis Gyllensporre (@Gyllensporre) April 3, 2019
Kidal is located about 285 km northeast of Gao, towards the borders with Niger and Algeria.
In January, gunmen killed 10 Chadian peacekeepers and injured at least 25 others in an attack on a UN camp in Aguelhok, about 120 km north of Kidal. Al-Qaeda’s branch in Mali, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM) later claimed responsibility for the attack. JNIM was formed in 2017 through the merger of several smaller groups, including the Saharan branch of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Dine and Al-Mourabitoun. Its leaders have pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
According to reports compiled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), UN peacekeepers have been repeatedly targeted at and near Kidal base since the middle of last year, all attacks being attributed to Ansar Dine.
In June 2018, the Kidal base was damaged when militants target with rockets or mortars, followed by an exchange of gunfire. No casualties were reported.
In July, August and November, peacekeepers were targeted in a number of improvised explosive device attacks on UN vehicles in and around the town, but no casualties were reported. been reported.
Recent unrest in the Sahel region began in Mali in 2012 with the Tuareg separatist uprising against the state, which was exploited by al-Qaeda-linked Islamist extremists who took over key towns in the desert north.
France began its Operation Serval military intervention in its former colony early the following year, driving the jihadists out of the cities, but the militant groups morphed into more nimble formations operating in rural areas, sometimes winning the local populations by providing basic services and protection against bandits. .
Large swaths of Mali remain outside government control, and the insurgency has gradually spread to the country’s central and southern regions and across borders into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
A peace deal was signed in 2015 between the government and some armed groups aimed at isolating Islamist militants, but the jihadist insurgency has shown no signs of abating.
The French mission in Mali evolved in August 2014 into the current Operation Barkhane, which has 4,500 troops deployed with a mandate for counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel region, with 2,700 soldiers in Mali to support local military forces mal equipped.
The troops deployed in Barkhane work alongside the UN Minusma stabilization mission in Mali, which started in 2013 and has around 12,000 soldiers and 1,750 police deployed, as well as the joint G5 Sahel counter-terrorism force which aims to train and deploy up to 5,000 people.
MINUSMA is considered one of the most dangerous UN-led peacekeeping missions. Sixteen peacekeepers have died this year alone.