UN force in Mali quits base early over insecurity

AFP , Sunday 13 Aug 2023

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali on Sunday said it had brought forward its withdrawal from a base in the north of the country due to deteriorating security conditions.

File photo - Soldiers from the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA. AFP


The MINUSMA force's departure from Ber comes after the Malian army on Saturday said six soldiers died and 24 fighters from "armed terrorist groups" were killed in a skirmish in the area on Friday.

Former rebels from the Tuareg ethnic group also said the army and the Russian mercenary group Wagner attacked their forces in Ber on Friday.

"MINUSMA has brought forward its withdrawal from Ber due to the degradation of security in the area and the high risks that bring for our Blue Helmets," the force said on Twitter, recently rebranded as "X".

It called on "the different actors concerned to abstain from any act that could further complicate the operation".

The number of troops involved or details on the original departure date were not specified.

"MINUSMA has left Ber. The camp is fully occupied" by the Malian army "without incident", a senior local security official told AFP.

The junta, which has ruled Mali since 2020 and pushed the UN Security Council in June to withdraw MINUSMA by the end of the year, has not reacted publicly.

The mission, which had some 11,600 troops and 1,500 police officers in the country, began in 2013 after separatist and jihadist rebellions broke out in northern Mali the previous year.

Its impending withdrawal from all of Mali has exacerbated tensions between the junta and the ex-rebels from the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA).

The CMA is an alliance of Tuareg-dominated groups seeking autonomy or independence from the Malian state and which controls vast areas of the north.

It said on Saturday that the Malian army was "determined to occupy MINUSMA's holdings at all costs, including those in areas under CMA control", in violation of a 2015 peace deal.

On Thursday, the former rebels announced the departure of all their representatives from the capital Bamako for "security" reasons, further widening the gap with the junta.

The CMA also criticises the military for having approved a new constitution in June, which it says compromises the preace agreement.

Mali's junta has fallen out with former colonial power France and turned to Russia for political and military support.

The deep security crisis that has engulfed northern Mali since 2012 has spread to the centre of the country as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

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