At least 20 people including UN peacekeepers were wounded on Thursday in a rocket attack on a UN military base in northern Mali, according to UN authorities.
The attack on French and Malian forces took place at roughly 6.00 a.m. local time (0600GMT) in the town of Tessalit in the country’s restive Kidal region, UN spokesman Olivier Salgado said on Twitter, adding that evacuations of the wounded were in progress.
Six UN peacekeepers from the UN Mali mission, known as MINUSMA, were seriously injured, according to media reports, with none having yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
MINUSMA maintains more than 13,000 troops in Mali, with separate French forces also operating across West Africa’s arid Sahel region.
Kidal has been under the control of Tuareg rebels since an uprising in 2012.
Thursday’s attack came a day after Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), said the region was in the midst of a devastating surge in terrorist attacks against civilian and military targets.
Chambas told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that unprecedented terrorist violence has shaken public confidence.
He said terrorist attacks have increased five-fold in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger since 2016, with over 4,000 deaths reported in 2019 compared to roughly 770 deaths in 2016.
In Burkina Faso, deaths surged from about 80 in 2016 to over 1,800 in 2019, he said.
“Most significantly, the geographic focus of terrorist attacks has shifted eastwards from Mali to Burkina Faso and is increasingly threatening West African coastal states,” Chambas underlined.
He added that terror attacks were often “deliberate efforts by violent extremists to capture weapons and trafficking routes” as well as engage in illicit activities, such as illegal mining, that sustain their operations.
Chambas urged leaders in the region to meet existing pledges to tackle terrorism.
A UN expert report to the UN Security Council last July indicated that during the first six months of 2019 terror groups had shown “growing ambition and reach” in the Sahel and West Africa where fighters from Daesh/ISIS and al-Qaida were collaborating to undermine fragile countries.