UNITED NATIONS - The foreign minister of Mali, Abdoulaye Diop, warned Wednesday his country is at risk of becoming a destination for “hoards of terrorists” as attacks by armed groups have increased.
Speaking via video link from Bamako, Diop urged the U.N. Security Council to help deal with terrorists in his country.
“Perhaps the council should consider setting up a rapid intervention force which is a capable of effectively fighting terrorists," he said through an interpretor.
He is also asked the security council to review and strengthen the mandate of its nearly 10,000-member peacekeeping force so that it could better protect civilians.
He warned that drug traffickers and jihadists have returned to northern Mali and he expressed concern about increased attacks on U.N. peacekeepers.
Ten U.N. troops have been killed in two attacks in the north -- the latest a Senegalese peacekeeper in Kidal city. Twenty-one others have died since the mission was deployed in July 2013. Dozens more have been wounded.
U.N. Peacekeeping Chief Hervé Ladsous also briefed the council from Bamako, where he traveled to attend a memorial service for the slain peacekeepers.
He said a combination of factors has led to the increase in attacks on U.N. troops, including the drawdown of French forces in the north and perceived lack of Malian security forces. He said MINUSMA, as the U.N. mission is known, is the main international presence in the north, making it a target.
“And of course, this makes us the target for all the spoilers, extremists, jihadists, traffickers who would want to have the ground exclusively to themselves so as to be able to carry on with their nefarious activities," Ladsous said.
He also said the United Nations is no longer working in a peacekeeping environment, adding that the organization is working on measures to increase protection of the mission’s staff, equipment and bases.
Northern Mali fell under control of Tuareg rebels and al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists following a 2012 military coup. The French-led intervention scattered the extremists, but some remain active.
The rebels and Malian government have held talks in Algiers aimed at clinching a lasting peace agreement.