BAMAKO – The United Nations mission in Mali says that Egypt will suspend its participation in the peacekeeping force in the West African country by mid-August, citing deadly attacks against its peacekeepers.
Seven Egyptian peacekeepers have been killed in Mali so far this year, according to officials.
Olivier Salgado, the spokesman of the U.N. mission in Mali, on Friday confirmed that Egypt will suspend its activities in Mali.
“We confirm that Egypt, through its Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, expressed its concern at the beginning of the week at the increase in attacks against its peacekeepers who escort the convoys supplying our bases in the center and northern Mali. These attacks have caused the death of 7 Egyptian soldiers since the beginning of the year,” he said in a statement. “We have been informed that as a result, the Egyptian contingent will temporarily suspend its activities within MINUSMA as of August 15.”
The U.N. said that the safety of its peacekeepers is a priority.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said later at U.N. headquarters in New York: "We respect and deeply appreciate the service and significant sacrifice by Egypt and other countries contributing uniformed personnel to our missions, which operate in extremely difficult and often dangerous conditions."
He said the U.N. is also dealing with the Mali government on a number of issues including its suspension of rotations in the U.N. peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSMA.
Egypt currently contributes about 1,030 troops and 24 staff officers to the U.N. Mali mission.
Mali has struggled to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency since 2012. Extremist rebels were forced from power in Mali’s northern cities with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regrouped in the desert and began attacking the Malian army and its allies. Insecurity has worsened with attacks in the northern and central regions on civilians and U.N. peacekeepers.
The U.N. force has said more than 250 of its peacekeepers and personnel have died since 2013, making Mali the deadliest of the U.N.’s dozen peacekeeping missions worldwide.