The African Union (AU) has sharply condemned the attack on Niger peacekeepers serving with the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The attack left nine soldiers dead and others wounded during an ambush Friday in the West African country 15 kilometers east of Indelimane in Mali’s northern Gao region.
Last month, U.N. peacekeepers from Chad were similarly attacked by armed militants in Mali.
El Ghassim Wane, spokesman for the African Union, said the continental body is ready to assist the United Nations and its international partners to investigate and find the “terrorists” who plotted and launched the attacks.
“The African Union strongly condemns this cowardly and criminal terrorist attack. We reiterate our full support to MINUSMA in the accomplishment of its mandate, and call on the international community to extend all the necessary support to MINUSMA, to enable it more effectively address the prevailing situation on the ground,” said Wane.
The AU Mission to Mali and the Sahel headed by Pierre Buyoya, a former Burundian president, is working closely with MINUSMA to help improve security in parts of Mali’s north. Wane said the criminals who carried out the attack should be punished for their crimes.
“We wholeheartedly associate ourselves with the U.N. and, of course, other stakeholders to ensure that the perpetrators of this criminal terrorist attack are indeed held accountable for their criminal actions,” said Wane.
The government in Bamako and various armed groups have been holding talks mediated by neighboring Algeria and backed by the African Union to resolve insecurity in parts of Mali’s north previously controlled by the rebels. The peace negotiations are scheduled to resume this month in Algeria’s capital, Algiers.
Wane said there is need to expedite the talks to find a solution to the insecurity. He expressed concern the security crisis in Mali creates the enabling environment for the terrorists to freely operate.
“The talks are based on very clear principles: respect for the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Mali, respect for the secular nature of the state and of course absolute rejection of terrorists ... We need to ensure that the talks succeed very quickly that results in an agreement,” said Wane.
Wane said the African Union is encouraged with the efforts of the peacekeepers for carrying out their mandate to improve security and protect unarmed civilians, which has been a challenging assignment in Mali.
“They have displayed a high level of commitment and determination to perform their mandate in support of Mali,” said Wane. “Every support should be made availed to MINUSMA to enable it help Mali stabilize the situation in the north ..." The U.N. troops are trying to stabilize Mali's north, which fell under the control of Tuareg rebels and then an al-Qaida linked after a 2012 coup. French and Malian troops retook the region last year, but sporadic militant attacks have continued.