Their deaths come just one day before the UN Security Council is holding a meeting on the mission in Mali, which was the United Nations’ most dangerous, even before the French military pulled its remaining troops from the country in August.
The UN peacekeeping mission known as MINUSMA confirmed on its Twitter account that two peacekeepers died at the scene. An official within the UN mission, who requested anonymity as they are not allowed to speak to journalists, confirmed that another seriously wounded peacekeeper later died from his injuries.
The explosion Monday took place 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the town of Tessalit in Kidal region. Islamic extremists are known to place improvised explosive devices in the area, the official said. When the UN patrol arrived at the site, they had dismounted and begun to advance on foot with a mine detector when the device exploded.
“The modus operandi is new because we have the impression that the device is not only remotely controlled, but that whoever activated it has visual contact with the peacekeepers,” he said. “Was this visual contact made through a civilian drone? We don’t know at the moment.”
The attack has not been claimed but bears the hallmarks of armed groups linked to al-Qaida.
A French-led military operation forced the Islamic extremists from power in the towns of northern Mali back in 2013. But the jihadis regrouped in the surrounding desert and have launched scores of attacks on the Malian military and UN peacekeepers in the years since.
Security concerns across the country have only deepened since the French military withdrew its troops from Mali. France’s decision to move its forces to neighbouring Niger came after relations sharply deteriorated with Mali’s junta leader, Col. Assimi Goita, who seized power in an August 2020 coup.
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