UN beefs up Mali mission with 2,500 peacekeepers
The UN Security Council on Wednesday decided to send 2,500 extra peacekeepers to Mali, authorizing the force to take "all necessary means" to deter attacks in what has become the UN\’s deadliest mission.
The council unanimously adopted a French-drafted resolution that brings the force known as MINUSMA up to a maximum level of 15,200 troops and police, and provides for modern equipment and quick-reaction units.
The vote followed a spate of attacks on UN bases in Mali that have killed 27 peacekeepers so far this year.
MINUSMA will now have "a more robust mandate" with additional troops that will include "highly specialized European contingents," French Ambassador Francois Delattre said.
Germany is set to deploy 650 troops to Mali who will bring aerial drones and transport planes to bolster MINUSMA.
The resolution authorizes peacekeepers to "take all necessary means" to carry out their mandate in support of a struggling peace accord signed a year ago.
Mali\’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop told the council by video-conference that "the entire Malian people, from north to south, east to west was rejoicing" over the resolution\’s adoption.
The government would spare no effort to implement the peace accord that has been facing major delays implementation, he added.
The council threatened to impose sanctions against anyone blocking the peace accord in line with a request from Mali earlier this month.
The mission is "confronted with a resilient terrorist threat" from groups aligned with Al-Qaeda and jihadists who remain active mostly in the north, the French ambassador said.
But France has no immediate plans to strengthen its counterterrorism Operation Barkhane operating in Mali and the Sahel region, which provides backup for UN troops, he added.
Mali has been struggling to turn the page on an Islamist takeover of its northern territory in 2012 that triggered a French military intervention to pull the country back from the brink of collapse.
The UN peacekeeping mission has become a target for attacks since its deployment in July 2013.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which is not a signatory to the peace deal, has claimed responsibility for two recent attacks on peacekeepers in the northern city of Gao.
On Sunday, the head of the Islamist group Ansar Dine, Iyad Ag Ghaly, released a video threatening French and UN troops in Mali, vowing to confront "the crusaders\’ military machine."
MINUSMA chief Mahamat Saleh Annadif has said the peacekeepers must be better-trained and better-equipped, in particular with armored personnel carriers capable of withstanding attacks from explosive devices planted on roads.
He has also asked for more surveillance drones and five more helicopters to accompany convoys on dangerous explosives-laden routes.
The council resolution instructed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to take additional measures to improve MINUSMA\’s surveillance capacities and provide equipment to counter explosive devices.