Several peacekeepers from the UN mission in Mali, currently in the process of withdrawing from the country, were “seriously injured” on Wednesday when their convoy fell victim to an improvised explosive device, a UN spokesman said.
On Tuesday, peacekeepers from the mission, known as Minusma, left their camp in Kidal in a long convoy of dozens of vehicles bound for Gao, a major northern city some 350 kilometers (220 miles) away.
“Today, we were just informed that the convoy hit an improvised explosive device,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, told reporters at the United Nations in New York.
Preliminary information indicates that “several peacekeepers were seriously injured,” he added. Minusma later said on its X (formerly Twitter) account that eight peacekeepers had been wounded, all of whom were evacuated to Gao.
“Today’s attack follows two similar incidents yesterday in which two peacekeepers experienced minor injuries” and were treated on site, Dujarric said.
Update on our withdrawal from #Kidal: Today, an armored vehicle in our convoy hit an #IED en route to #Gao. 8 peacekeepers injured, who have all been evacuated to #Gao. This is the 3rd IED attack on the convoy since it left on 10/31. Wishing them all a speedy recovery.
— MINUSMA (@UN_MINUSMA) November 1, 2023
The convoy was the last to leave Kidal for the Minusma base in Gao “under extremely difficult security conditions.”
The convoy was thus “forced to depart without any air support due to a lack of flight authorization by the Malian authorities, which of course has increased the threat to the safety of our peacekeepers as they travel hundreds of kilometers in very unsafe territories,” Dujarric said, calling again for Bamako’s “full cooperation” in the Minusma withdrawal.
In June, the Malian junta demanded that the peacekeepers leave “without delay,” forcing the UN Security Council to launch an unprecedented hasty withdrawal, due to be completed by the end of the year.
Minusma, constrained by the deteriorating security situation between all the armed actors vying for control of the terrain — including separatists, jihadists, and the regular army — has accelerated its withdrawal, much to the irritation of the junta.
It left its positions in Kidal without waiting for the army to arrive, allowing the separatist rebellion, which is predominantly Tuareg, to take control of the area and beat the Malian army in the race for territory between the central state and the armed groups in the north.