At least 27 UN peacekeepers were wounded and one killed in an attack in central Mali on Wednesday, when their base was attacked by unknown assailants, the UN mission in the country, known as MINUSMA, said. According to the UN, the killed peacekeeper was from Togo.

The UN base near the town of Douentza was attacked around 07:00 GMT.

“For several months we have been carrying out numerous security operations in this part of Mali, the main objective of which is to help reduce violence against populations, restore calm in areas where community tensions are reported, and reduce the threat of improvised explosive devices, as is the case in the Douentza region.”

“These operations disturb the enemies of peace, but we remain committed alongside the Malians, for the Malians,” said the head of MINUSMA, Mahamat Saleh Annadif.

Islamic terrorist groups linked to both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State often attack UN peacekeepers and Malian soldiers in the Sahel. The terrorists regularly move between the borders of the G5 nations — Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mauritania — which comprise the Sahel region. 

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, UN chief Stéphane Dujarric, emphasized that attacks against UN blue helmets “may constitute a war crime” and called on the Malian authorities to “spare no efforts in promptly holding to account the perpetrators of this heinous attack.” 

MINUSMA has more than 13,000 troops in the country to contain the violence that has wracked Mali since the Taureg rebellion began in 2012. The rebellion quickly turned into an insurgency by Islamic terrorist groups.

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The Malian government, with both French and UN backing, has since been trying to stabilize the country.

The UN peacekeeping force has suffered 230 fatalities since 2013, making it the worst-hit of the UN’s more than a dozen peacekeeping missions.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) issued a statement condemning the attack “in the strongest terms” while adding that involvement in “planning, directing, sponsoring or conducting attacks against MINUSMA peacekeepers constitutes a basis for sanctions designations,” and is subject to its resolutions.  

Moreover, UNSC reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations “constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.” UNSC also urged all parties to “fully implement the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali without further delay.”

The Malian military conducted a coup last August and deposed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita for his failure to stabilize the country and reign in the corruption that dominates Mali’s politics. 

The military created a transitional government. Yet, the appointment of former Minister of Defense Colonel Major Bah N’Daou and Colonel Assisi Goïta as the transitional president and vice-president, respectively, has created more ill-will toward the military. 

Meanwhile, the UN conducted a long investigation into human rights violations in the country. The investigation accuses all sides in the conflict of wrongdoing, including Malian military forces, local militias as well as the French military. French forces operating in their former colony since 2013 have often acted independently of the Malian government and UN troops. The report found the French forces responsible on several occasions for the deaths of innocent civilians in airstrikes.