The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali on Sunday said it had brought forward its withdrawal from a base in the north of the country due to deteriorating security conditions.

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A British soldier of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), adjusts a UN flag on the roof of a light armoured vehicle during a patrol in Menaka, Mali, on October 28, 2021.
A British soldier of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), adjusts a UN flag on the roof of a light armoured vehicle during a patrol in Menaka, Mali, on October 28, 2021. © AFP – Florent Vergnes

During the operation, three of its soldiers were wounded when they came under fire, the force added a few hours later.

The MINUSMA force’s departure from Ber comes after the Malian army on Saturday said six soldiers died and 24 fighters from “armed terrorist groups” were killed in a skirmish in the area on Friday.

Former rebels from the Tuareg ethnic group also said the army and the Russian mercenary group Wagner had attacked their forces in Ber on Friday.

“MINUSMA has expedited its withdrawal from #Ber due to the deteriorating security situation in the area & the high risks posed to our #BlueHelmets,” the force said Sunday on Twitter, recently rebranded as “X”.

“It urges all concerned parties to refrain from any actions that could further complicate the operation.”

The number of troops involved or details on the original departure date were not specified.

In a message posted later Sunday, the forced added: “The MINUSMA convoy that withdrew from #Ber today was attacked twice,” adding that three wounded peacekeepers had been evacuated to Timbuktu for treatment.

Attacks against peacekeepers can constitute war crimes under international law, the statement added.

‘Numerous incidents’

Mali’s army in a statement issued on Sunday evening, said it had taken possession of the Ber camp “after numerous incidents had marred the movement of our units”.

Army troops were targeted with sporadic fire as they advanced towards Ber on Sunday, the statement said, without identifying the assailants.

The army also reported earlier incidents, while it was on the way to Ber.

It said armed “terrorist” groups had staged “an attempted incursion into the camp and harassing fire” against its troops, as well as other clashes, which left a total of six soldiers dead and four wounded, according to a military press release.

For several days now, the Ber area has been the scene of tensions between the army and the Russian Wagner paramilitary group against the CMA, an alliance of Tuareg-dominated groups seeking autonomy or independence from the Malian state and which controls vast areas of the north.

A CMA official, commenting on social media on Sunday, had called for MINUSMA to “simply leave” Ber and not hand the camp over to the army,

The junta, which has ruled Mali since 2020 has pushed the UN Security Council in June to withdraw MINUSMA by the end of the year.

The UN Security Council in June decided to do so and the first departures happened early this month from the central Ogossagou base.

(AFP)

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