Four civilian contract truck drivers were wounded, one of them seriously, in an armed attack on a convoy of the withdrawing UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, a UN spokesman said on Friday.
“All those wounded, including one who was seriously injured, have been safely evacuated and are now being treated in Gao,” said Stephane Dujarric, chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The mission is known by its French acronym as MINUSMA.
Dujarric said the gunmen attacked a logistics convoy traveling from Ansongo to Labbezanga, just south of Gao region. The convoy was helping to repatriate equipment for the Niger contingent.
“We remain deeply concerned about the obstacles the mission is facing as it withdraws from Mali,” he said. “Today (Friday), peacekeeping flights, including regular flights, were not authorized, except for one to resupply with water a Chadian contingent withdrawal convoy en route to Gao and one medical evacuation flight.”
“Other administrative obstacles include the blockage by Malian customs of fuel trucks to resupply our camp in Gao,” the spokesman said. “The mission has been forced to accelerate its withdrawal from several of its camps due to the deteriorating (security) situation by using larger road convoys and taking the difficult decision to destroy sensitive equipment, instead of bringing it back.”
He explained that MINUSMA was forced to destroy the equipment as a last resort, following established procedures, to avoid leaving sensitive equipment behind in a conflict zone.
“The safe and orderly withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping force is a priority, and we reiterate our call on the Malian authorities to do their utmost to facilitate the mission’s departure in an organized and safe manner,” Dujarric said. “We also call on all stakeholders in Mali, as well as the troop- and police-contributing countries, to cooperate in this endeavor.”
The military government asked MINUSMA to withdraw from the country after a 10-year presence. The Security Council obliged, ordering the mission in June to be withdrawn by the end of this year.