Two UN reports released this week expressed concern over the escalating violence in central Mali.
Two UN peacekeepers were killed and two others injured when an improvised bomb exploded in central Mali, UN officials said.
The soldiers were part of the Egyptian contingent of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali – MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali), officials said on Friday.
“The head of MINUSMA condemned the attack,” mission spokesperson Olivier Salgado posted in a Tweet.
The Egyptian peacekeepers were part of an escort of a dozen UN vehicles accompanying a convoy of civilian trucks carrying fuel, Salgado said.
A mine exploded as the convoy passed, Salgado said.
These convoys can stretch for miles and the mines can be detonated on contact or from a distance by the attackers.
The explosion took place near the town of Douentza, on the road to Timbuktu, said UN special representative and head of MINUSMA, El-Ghassim Wane.
“A tough week, very tough for us. We cannot overstate the difficulty of our task and the extreme dedication of our peacekeepers,” Wane wrote in a tweet.
Two reports released this week – one by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the other by MINUSMA’s human rights division – expressed concern over the escalating violence in the center of Mali.
On Wednesday, a Jordanian UN peacekeeper was killed in an attack on his convoy in Kidal, northern Mali.
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are a weapon of choice used by rebels against MINUSMA and Malian government forces. They also kill many civilians.
Seven Togolese blue helmets were killed in December by an explosion of IEDs between Douentza and Sévaré.
With 13,000 personnel, MINUSMA is one of the largest UN peacekeeping operations, and also one of the most dangerous. The UN reported that 174 soldiers died as a result of hostile acts, according to the AFP news agency.
Since 2012, Mali has been plagued by rebel groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State (IS) group, and the country’s central regions have become a hotbed of violence and rebel activity that has spread from the north , and on to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Thousands of civilians and combatants have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the fighting.
Mali’s ruling military government has recently turned away from its traditional military ally, France, and turned to Russia in its efforts to stem armed unrest.