Al-Qaeda-linked group claims Mali attack on UN troopsTue, 15 Aug 2023 15:04:13 GMT

An al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group has claimed responsibility for an attack that wounded members of the UN’s peacekeeping force in Mali, which is pulling out of the country, monitors said.At least four members of MINUSMA were hurt on Sunday when they came under attack on a road in northern Mali between Timbuktu and Ber, according to the claim by the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM) monitored by SITE.The GSIM, on its Al-Zallaqa propaganda outlet, also claimed on Monday an attack on Sunday against a Mali army position near Korioume, south of Timbuktu, in which a soldier was killed, the US monitoring group said.MINUSMA — the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali — is one of the UN’s biggest and most perilous peacekeeping operations.Its deployment began in 2013 after separatist and jihadist rebellions broke out in northern Mali the previous year.But, under pressure from Mali’s ruling junta, the 13,000-man mission is to withdraw by year’s end, a move that follows the pullout of French troops in 2022.MINUSMA’s withdrawal from its dozen bases began in early August at Ogossagou in the centre of the country.After Sunday’s attack, MINUSMA said it would bring forward its departure from its base at Ber “due to the deteriorating security situation in the area (and) the high risks” facing its troops.It said the MINUSMA troops were attacked twice and three wounded peacekeepers had been evacuated to Timbuktu for treatment.The future of the base at Ber has heightened tensions between the Malian army and former rebels in the region.The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) — an alliance of predominantly ethnic Touareg groups — says moves by the junta to take over the vacated base would breach the terms of a ceasefire reached in 2014.The CMA signed a peace deal with Mali’s then-civilian government in 2015, but the pact has come under increasing strain since a coup in 2020 that toppled the elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.The CMA say their forces in Ber were attacked on Friday by government troops and paramilitaries from Russia’s Wagner group.The army, for its part, says its troops in the area have been fighting jihadists — six troops in a unit that were to deploy at the base were killed last Friday in fighting armed Islamists, it says.