Mali's military government has suspended the rotation of U.N. military and police forces following the renewal late last month of the mandate of the U.N. mission there.
The government announced in a written statement that, for “national security” reasons, “all rotations of the military contingent and police contingent of MINUSMA” were suspended as of Thursday.
The suspension comes after Mali arrested 49 soldiers from Ivory Coast on Sunday.
During a Thursday briefing, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, said that the troops were not officially part of MINUSMA but came as “support of their contingents,” what he described as “a common practice in peacekeeping missions.” The Malian government labeled them “mercenaries.” Ivory Coast has called for their release.
The arrests were not mentioned in the statement announcing the suspension.
Since April, the U.N. has been seeking access to the town of Moura, where locals told human rights investigators and journalists that the army and Russian mercenaries carried out a massacre over five days.
The mandate for the mission in Mali was renewed during a Security Council meeting on June 29. During renewal talks, Mali’s U.N. representative said the government would not allow the U.N. to carry out investigations of alleged human rights abuses as part of its mandate.
The U.N. mission in Mali has almost 12,000 troops and 1,700 police officers. It is a visible presence in many of Mali’s northern cities, which were taken over by Islamist militants in 2012 and have seen increasing insecurity in recent months following the French army’s withdrawal from the country.