Gunmen have killed two UN peacekeepers in a region of northwestern Mali wracked by jihadist violence, the UN said Sunday.
A UN convoy traveling between the towns of Tessalit and Gao was attacked Saturday evening by “armed individuals” who killed two of the soldiers, MINUSMA, the UN mission, said in a statement.
According to a statement released by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the two peacekeepers were Egyptian nationals.
The convoy had stopped when it was attacked near the village of Tarkint, northeast of Gao, the largest town in northern Mali. The UN troops “retaliated firmly and sent the assailants fleeing”, the statement said.
The head of the peacekeeping mission, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, condemned the “cowardly acts aimed at paralyzing the mission’s operations on the ground.”
“We will have to work together to identify and apprehend those responsible for these terrorist acts so that they can be held accountable for their crimes before the courts,” the statement quoted him as saying.
Guterres, in his statement, said the attacks might constitute “war crimes.” “Such cowardly acts will not deter the United Nations from its resolve to continue supporting the people and government of Mali in their pursuit of peace and stability,” said the statement.
The MINUSMA has some 13,000 troops drawn from several nations deployed across the vast semi-arid country.
Mali is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in 2012 and which has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives since.
Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed the center of the country and spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger to the west.